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
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…