Curiosity, Ignorance and Racism in South Korea
During my application process to become an English teacher in South Korea, the interviewers kept asking me over and over again, “Do you think you can live in a homogeneous country?” I was so thrilled about going on my great adventure abroad that I never thought to myself, what the hell is a homogeneous country? I also didn’t take into consideration that I was being placed in rural South Korea.
For the most part, I am fine with living in a homogeneous country. I think it gives the country you’re in a unifying effect, but it also doesn’t allow foreigners to blend in. When I travel around Korea, it’s like a giant target is on my back saying, ‘Stop and stare.’ Thankfully in my town, no one stares at me anymore because they’re used to seeing me by now and most people know who I am. However, going somewhere new is never fun because strangers will stop and stare.
Curiosity, Ignorance and Racism in South Korea.
If I sit next to an old Korean lady, she will most likely rub the back of my hand to see if my color comes off. My young kindergarten students are so fascinated by the color of the lines in my hand or by my dark curly hair, or that the color goes all the way up my hand. I just always feel that I am being poked or prodded or judged.
Don’t get me wrong. Koreans stare at all foreigners, but with me I find it’s because of my skin color. They will stop in the middle of the street to stare at me. I want to clarify that I don’t think that it’s racism, but rather more out of curiosity. In America, it’s possible that you can’t remember the first time you saw a person of a different race, but in Korea, I am that person for some people.
After living here for eight months, I know that my long-term country must have cultural diversity that doesn’t just include me. People are just curious.
Curiosity, Ignorance and Racism in South Korea photos by Unsplash.