Followup: Korean man harassing foreigners gets slapped on fingers

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From the Korea Beat comes the follow-up story about the Korean man indicted for racial harassment – and it isn’t particularly good news (original story from the Hankyoreh):

In the end, on August 28th the Bucheon branch indicted Mr. Park on charges
of criminal insult. From indictment to pronouncement of sentence typically takes
one month. The media widely reported it as the country’s first punishment of
racial discrimination. The “t-shirt man” must have learned Prof. Hussein’s face
about that time.

From the Korea Beat comes the follow-up story about the Korean man indicted for racial harassment – and it isn’t particularly good news (original story from the Hankyoreh):

In the end, on August 28th the Bucheon branch indicted Mr. Park on charges
of criminal insult. From indictment to pronouncement of sentence typically takes
one month. The media widely reported it as the country’s first punishment of
racial discrimination. The “t-shirt man” must have learned Prof. Hussein’s face
about that time.

Prosecutors were not so moved. “This case was investigated and charged no differently from any other,” said an employee of the prosecutors’ office. There is no law prohibiting racial discrimination. On the size of the fine, the employee said that, “it will be similar to those give to Koreans in similar cases.” It will likely be from W500,000 to W1,000,000, but the precise amount has not been determined [emphases mine].

So ‘criminal insult’ is the term being used here, because there’s no law against racial discrimination. It sounds like that was the best possible charge, all things considered, yet even getting that charge merits no jail time. A 500,000 won fine, on the smaller end, is about $414 US dollars – hardly the strong deterrence needed against such an act.

But Prof. Hussein’s friend Ms. Han still feels angry. Ms. Han was riding the bus with Prof. Hussein when she was insulted with the phrase “you’re a Chosun x, aren’t you?” She is also a victim seeking for Mr. Park to be charged with criminal insult. But most media reports did not feature her. “The media did not focus on Koreans, in particular Korean women, with immigrant and foreign friends and family.”

After the Hankyoreh21 report, 27-year old Mrs. Kim, who lives in Seoul, sent an e-mail. She said that she has experienced “the stinging gaze and insults of middle-aged Korean men.” Mrs. Kim’s husband is a white person born in Australia. The couple cannot forgot December 3rd of last year. That was the day they registered their marriage. It was also the day they suffered unexpected insults.

The couple was walking together on a street in Myeongdong. Across from them came a middle-aged Korean man in a suit. The “middle-aged suit man” began to berate them. “Ugh, you foreigner’s whore. Dirty…” Mrs. Kim’s ears turned red. “What did you just say?” The middle-aged suit man seemed to pause, then insulted her in Korean and English, saying, “foreigner’s whore, dirty bitch, slut, hooker, whore.” “Your parents must feel terrible. Where did you come from? Are you next to that man because you speak English?” Mrs. Kim said, “if that happens again I will go straight to the police.”

I’m rather surprised she didn’t grab the guy by the ear and ‘escort’ him to the nearest police station. And I wish I had had a video camera to catch it…

Due to this incident, Democratic Party representative Jeon Byeong-heon plans to introduce a bill banning racial discrimination to the National Assembly in September. The bill provides that discrimination on the basis of race, nationality, ethnicity, and skin color would, at the order of the National Human Rights Commission, be punishable to up to two years in prison and a fine of up [to] W10,000,000.

Will Prof. Hussein be safe if the law is passed? When he was accosted by the “t-shirt man” on the early morning of September 11th, the two police officers who took the report were unable to speak English. Though they were very kind, they did not understand what Prof. Hussein was saying. He had to call a Korean friend and ask the friend to interpret. By the time the police understood what had happened it was 2:30 in the morning. The “t-shirt man” had disappeared.

“I’ve been to several countries in Asia, but that was my first time to be physically threatened. It’s not safe to live in Korea.” I asked him what he plans for the future. He said the only thing he can do is be careful. Just understand and be careful. That is the weapon of the defenseless.

It should be pointed out that we are NOT defenseless. Andrea Vandom‘s case regarding the required drugs and AIDS tests is going forward in the Constitutional Court, as is Professor Ben Wagner’s work in making foreigners equal. It is up to Korea to make those laws to change the culture, then enforce the laws they’ve chosen to enact.

In the meantime, don’t take discrimination or harassment sitting down. Challenge it. Question it. Use the Korean you know to ask them what they meant. Like some bullies you may have met in school, most Koreans aren’t used to being challenged in that way. Make it clear that you won’t tolerate it – the message can get out there.

Creative Commons License © Chris Backe – 2009


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