Life in Korea: Subway Stories, Part II

During my everyday life, I see a lot of foreigners in Seoul. Probably around a dozen a day.

Generally speaking, we (native Koreans) don’t really bother to notice them, because there are so many of them everywhere that they just become a part of your daily commute.

On the subway, I see – nearly daily – foreigners taking the train. Some are Hispanic, some are Indian, but mostly, they’re Caucasian. The passengers pay them no heed and they go about their merry way.

However, it was a different story when two African-Americans, heavyset, with baseball caps and bags strapped across their shoulders, stepped into the car I was sitting in and proceeded to lean against the opposite door, arms crossed.

A note about racism in Korea: Yes, it exists here, too – just like it exists wherever people exist.

And since Korea is a mono-cultural society (for the vast majority of its history), it’s natural that racist leanings are more prevalent, and somewhat more accepted than in America. I’m not saying that it’s right, mind you – just saying that it exists, and in greater levels than elsewhere.

So this is what I observed when the two aforementioned black guys (pardon the rough usage) entered the subway:

-A family of three children and their mother hesitated for a few seconds before the mother drew her kids in with her arms and evacuated(?) to the other side of the compartment

-a multitude of clearing throats and shuffling of papers

-at the next station, one person entered the car, saw the African-Americans, and teetered on the edge for a moment, clearly deciding between whether or not to wait for the next train or just “suck it up” and deal with it. He finally decided to come in, although he turned around the moment the doors closed and spent the rest of his ride staring out the window.

-futile glances towards the newcomers by people who were clearly pretending to be sleeping

-etc.etc.

If I had been that black guy (again, apologies for the slang), I probably would’ve just taken a taxi, civil rights be damned.

Because, honestly, no one deserves that kind of treatment (direct or otherwise), and in any case, I don’t think I could’ve stood the glare of the spotlight that was on me.

Just some of my thoughts on something interesting that happened on the way to work a few mornings ago…

 

 

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Adeline says:

    Racism exists everywhere 😦 Something similar happened to one of my best friends (who is black).
    We he moved in the village where he lives now (500 inhabitants, in the middle of the mountains) when he was 12, the first time he went to the bakery, the owner looked at him as if he was about to rob the shop. And same went with the butchery, … They were the only black family in the village, and it took them a long time to be accepted.
    You would think France would be open minded about this because of the colonial past, and the fact that island such as Martinique or Guadeloupe are still 100% French, and where most people are black. But no.
    Sure in Paris or Lyon, big cities, it’s another story, people don’t care. But being black or asian in France’s campains is a nightmare 😦

  2. janice says:

    Thanks M3! For the insight.

    But seriously, racism is everywhere. I’ve been ignored and snubbed in the UK, juz for being chinese. And that’s with me speaking perfect english, manners and all.

    Does that mean it balances out the world that foreigners are also faced with racism in asia too? Lols! Some people need to see the world and not thru their telly/computers in their water well. They might as well juz drown in their poor souls. Keke!

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