Friday, August 10, 2018

Hidden camera images in Sunday Seoul magazine in 1971

AFP correspondent Hawon Jung, who has been covering the large anti-molka (hidden camera porn) protests by women, wrote today:
The incident which prompted the protests involved police zealously hunting down a woman who posted an image of a male nude model online, in comparison with their lax pursuit of men who do the same to women.

I've been organizing my research taken from weekly magazines from 1968-1971 like Sunday Seoul and, oddly enough, today I came across the following photos from the March 21, 1971 issue of Sunday Seoul. The text reads:
When women are alone…
Men are presented with magic in moments of defenselessness when women are not concealed or unadorned. Women with childish cuteness and sincerity are charming, and in those women-only times and places they slightly turn their heads.
What are the impressions of women who see photos of moments like these?


The photos presented are of a reclining co-ed in her rented room reading on a Sunday, a woman doing calisthenics, and "'Oh my oh my' screams the friend behind [the woman] who absent-mindedly ties her shoes."

Sunday Seoul (and Weekly Kyonghyang) began in the fall of 1968 and for over a year featured nude photo spreads (of mostly Western women in WK and Korean women in SS). By mid-1970 the nude centerfolds had disappeared from Sunday Seoul and were replaced with nude paintings of women, both Korean and Western, modern and classic.

Even Matisse. Sunday Seoul, May 31, 1970.

This is the context in which the photo spread above appeared. As I noted here, even Korean newspapers reprinted photos (from AP) of Western women in swimsuits (though I incorrectly suggest Koreans did not wear bikinis like in the West; my research has found that bikinis were much more common in Korea in the 1970s). While Sunday Seoul is quite important for its documenting and even sponsoring of youth culture in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it's quite clear that men were the target audience. A friend once told me that he got a Sunday Seoul magazine from friends for his birthday when he was in his teens in the 1980s, and that it was used for "masturbation purposes."

While the photo spread above is clearly shot with models and does not suggest that (male) readers photograph women in the same way, what is one to make of this photo spread highlighting women's legs from the August 15, 1971 issue of Sunday Seoul?


This is merely the first of four pages of similar photos. I have my doubts that these photos were shot openly, making them, essentially, molka photos.

I really don't know if such photo spreads would have been in mainstream Western magazines at that time, though it certainly wouldn't surprise me. The Weekly Kyonghyang regularly reprinted Western cartoons, including many like this:

From the January 21, 1970 Weekly Kyonghyang 

The fact that women have breasts was fodder for many cartoons. That images like these no longer appear in mainstream media is a reminder that some progress has been made in the last 50 years, even if it might not always feel that way.

Update:

It slipped my mind that the police have been concerned with at least some men taking hidden camera photos, as this July 29, 2013 Munhwa Ilbo article, titled "'Foreigners [caught for] hidden cameras' increase sixfold over four years - concern videos may be leaked overseas," reveals (see here for a similar story in English). It mentions a foreign teacher who took upskirt photos (but not at a beach, which was the focus of the story) and illustrates the article with an image of an English teacher behaving deviously (though not as deviously as the teacher in the image here, illustrated by the same artist).


Note the difference between how he is illustrated and how the naughty Korean man is illustrated in the offending police poster (which does not appear with the tweet linked above for some reason):


Tuesday, August 07, 2018

From 2006 - There is a 'killer' native speaking English instructor in Korea!

Inside Story's 2006 articles on the evils of foreign English teachers

Part 1: Foreign instructors earn money, are 'absorbed in decadence,' women and drugs
Part 2: Low-quality native speaking instructors: 'Korean women give us money and are sex partners'
Part 3: English Instructors 'Treated like kings and get full service including women’
Part 4: Affairs with high school students, spreading nude photos on the internet
Part 5: Foreign instructors ask for mothers rather than tutoring fees.
Part 6:Tracking [down] blacklisted foreign teachers suspected of having AIDS
Part 7: There is a 'killer' native speaking English instructor in Korea!

On November 1, 2006 BreakNews published another story about foreign English teachers. This marked the last such story written by Sin Yeon-hui with contributions by and interviews with Anti-English Spectrum's leader, "Mr. Kim" (Lee Eun-ung), and so this is the final entry in this series.

---------------------------

"There is a 'killer' native speaking English instructor in Korea!"

[Exclusive report] A former gangsters who committed murders sneaks into Korea and works at a well-known language hagwon and school

Reporter Sin Yeon-hui

[Exclusive confirmation] Native speaker blacklist "caught by NIS information network"

'Inside Story' has published 7 in-depth reports on the shocking realities of unqualified and low-quality native speaking instructors. This paper has reported on such shocking facts as foreign instructors' drug parties, their sexual denigration of Korean women, diploma forgery of diplomacy, and spreading nude photos of female pupils on the internet.

After this paper's exclusive report (in issue 432) on the blacklist of native speaking English instructors in particular, this story was reported by domestic broadcasters and media, causing a huge stir.

Among the native speaking instructors included on the blacklist was one who had committed murder in his home country and had fled to Korea, where he worked as an English instructor and a criminal. Amid this, the stir [over foreign instructors] expanded when on October 23 a large number of English hagwon native speaking instructors were caught for taking drugs.

It was shocking that included among them was an instructor from A English Hagwon, which is affiliated with a top school, which this paper confirmed came as a result of its news gathering.

"This case of the English instructors caught for drugs is just the tip of the iceberg," said Mr. K, who is leading a movement to track down unqualified and low quality native speaking instructors in Korea and expel them. "The ongoing investigation by police should proceed. Since there are a lot of native speaking instructors with criminal records, you can't rule out the possibility of a murder happening," he said, pointing out the serious situation of native speaker instructors who have lost all morality.

Police: "There are 80 people listed in a book belonging to an illegal employment broker"

The Seoul Metropolitan Police Department drug trafficking team arrested 15 people, including 12 who had taken drugs and taught English in Seoul and Gyeonggi-do area elementary and middle schools, neighbourhood offices, and well-known English hagwons, among whom were foreign instructors and a Korean American criminal who had been deported, as well as 3 other people including broker Mr. Kim and his wife and a hagwon owner who had hired the instructors. 7 were booked for drug use.

The number of foreigner [typo - 'foreign language'] hagwons has been steadily increasing, from 5.232 in 2004, to 5,689 in 2005, to 6,058 this year [2006].

As the number of English language institutes increases like this, hagwons are competing to recruit native speaking instructors. Amid this, unqualified native speaking language instructors who are not properly verified pose as instructors and professors at large-scale hagwons and schools.

Now 12 native speaking instructors have been caught by the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency Drug Investigation Team for taking drugs. It has been disclosed that they habitually took drugs in Seoul and the Gyeonggi-do area.

Police arrested 15 people, including an unregistered employment agency which introduced the instructors to hagwons and the owner of a hagwon which hired them, and booked seven of them.

Investigation into drug use and illegal employment expanded

Police arrested five others, including naturalized citizens and American and Canadian foreign instructors, who habitually took methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana.

The police said, "Due to differences in culture and law, foreign English instructors and those deported from the US [hereafter "the deportees"] staying in Korea can easily be exposed to drugs, so we will expand our investigation into whether they are taking drugs."

Police are investigating the ledger, bank accounts and computers seized from Kim in order to determine the role of the broker and the deportees. Police said that Kim played a lead role in the illegal employment of the deportees as English teachers, and that there is a list of about 80 English instructors in the ledger seized from Kim.

In addition, the police are trying to secure additional suspects by comparing the ledger and bank accounts in relation to statements that Kim interacted with the deportees, and will request that Kim's deleted computer be restored for use in the investigation.

In general, in the case of Korean drug offenders, drug trafficking routes are carefully traced starting from the suspect's phone call history, but in the case of foreigners they are vague and form in places where foreigners gather, drug squad officials explained.

For example, suppose that drugs could be bought from an obscure dealer with a common name like Brian in an area with lots of clubs where mainly foreigners gather, like Hongdae or Itaewon. During close questioning, when police ask people who have been caught with drugs "Where is the dealer?" they can answer "He left the country, I don't know him." In other words, this means it is difficult to find a supply route with such obscure dealers.

The seven deportees and five foreign instructors who were arrested for drug taking all obtained and used at home marijuana or meth on their own. Because they were not all in the same group, they were separately arrested over two months, and each of them bought drugs through different sources, police said they have yet to find where they got the drugs or the supply route.

Among the 15 arrested, those who are not involved in drug abuse are three such as the president of c and the husband and wife of broker Kim. To summarize the suspects in this case, the brokers are divided into nine illegal immigrants who are working illegally through a couple of brothers, namely, Koreans and foreigners.

Top class English language instructor, belonging to Korean gang
Many of the native English speakers 'Drug · Sex · Theft addict'


The starting point of the case was the group of deportees, centering on the broker Kim and his wife and branching out to Mr. K and his live-in girlfriend, Mr. Han and Mr. A, Mr. N, and Mr. C. Each of these people was illegally found a job by Kim and his wife, and Mr. K and his live-in girlfriend, Mr. Han and his hagwon coworker Mr. A took drugs. They were all arrested in September and October due to persistent tracking by the police.

Hagwon owners who hire an unqualified English instructor are subject to criminal or administrative penalties. Police explained that hagwon owner C was arrested in this case because he hired a tourist visa-holder, rather than a work visa-holder, as an instructor, while other hagwon owners who hired the deportees or foreigners who did drugs were not subject to police criminal penalties.

A violent offender with a gang background

According to police, the arrested native speaking instructors had obtained green cards as children but were deported from the United States for gang activity, possession of firearms, theft and robbery, or the manufacture and sale of narcotics.

The broker, Mr. Kim (44), who was also deported for illegal gun possession in May 2000, set up an employment agency to find English instructors jobs in Korea for other deportees, and after forging US college diplomas arranged instructor jobs for unqualified people.

It was discovered that those who became instructors with counterfeit diplomas were habitually taking drugs and then teaching students. As well, it turned out that the middle schools, academies, and district offices that hired them did not properly confirm whether or not they had qualifications due to the lack of instructors caused by the English learning craze.

Police are planning to expand investigations into whether or not those deported from the US and native speaking English instructors at hagwons in Korea have done drugs.

The past criminal history of those arrested is truly serious.

The suspect K belonged to the notorious ethnic Korean gang 'K.P.B.' in the United States and was convicted of violent crime such as robbery and deported, while Mr. Han, A, N, and C were part of the L.A. gang L.G.K.K. and were deported for producing and selling drugs, use of illegal firearms, and first degree burglary. It was also discovered that Mr. Lee, an American citizen, was a member of the Korean gang 'cys.'

The suspect Mr. K was arrested for violating the Narcotics Control Act in 2004 and he left work as a public service worker at a district office and the broker Mr. Kim forged a diploma and used his illegal job-finding company to get him and his live-in girlfriend, who was an American citizen, jobs as instructors together at C English hagwon. They were arrested on charges of smoking marijuana in their home.

Ex-cons and high school dropouts worked as hagwon and school instructors
Immigration: "Attaching a foreign criminal record infringes on personal information"


The suspect Mr. K was the starting point for the 15 people arrested. According to the police, in March of this year, after receiving intelligence about K from the NIS, they started an investigation and found the district office where K had worked as a public servant, but he had already left that workplace.

At the end of the police investigation, K was arrested in September, but in the process of investigating his background police wondered how K, who had dropped out of high school in the US, was able to work as an English instructor, which ultimately revealed the truth about the brokers Kim and his wife and the other deportees.

The police investigation found that K's girlfriend was also a US citizen and like K had been able to illegally find work as an instructor at A English hagwon with the help of the broker Mr. Kim. However, Mr. K's wife was working as an instructor on a tourist visa rather than a work visa, and as a result, the owner of A English hagwon's Anyang branch, Mr. J, was arrested for violating the Immigration Control Act.

A English hagwon is considered one of the leading foreign language academies in Gangnam, represented by well-known Korean English instructors. K was working at Anyang branch of this institute. A English hagwon Anyang branch director J hired K's girlfriend as an instructor even though he knew she was in Korea on a tourist visa. In addition, he hired K without even checking his identity despite him submitting to the hagwon a fake diploma with a third party's name on it, and he did not register them as instructors at the education office.

Another suspect, Mr. Han, was deported in 1998 due to possession of an illegal gun, and after coming to Korea was arrested for violating the Narcotics Control Law in 2006 and served a sentence, but he was working as an instructor at a well-known hagwon.

Mr. Han was arrested for habitually smoking marijuana at a his lodgings, which were provided by B English hagwon in Ansan, with fellow deportee and co-worker Mr. A. In Mr. Han's case in particular, at the time of his arrest, the homepage of the hagwon's head office showed that he had been selected as "Excellent Instructor of the Month" from among instructors nationwide. This is shocking in that it proves there is a serious hole in the management of the English instructor by English hagwons.

B English hagwon in particular is operated by famous broadcaster Mr. L. Mr. L is a famous English instructor who is active on TV and radio.

The broker Mr. Kim and his wife were also deported on charges of using an illegal firearm in 2000.
From July 9, 2003 to October this year, Kim operated an unregistered employment agency called "one and one English" in Namyangju City.

He advertised on a foreign English instructor job site and recruited unqualified English instructors. Most of them had been in gangs in the US or deported on charges of violent crime, and by recruiting them and placing them and foreigners in places like hagwons they earned through fees the sizeable income of 300 million won.

Kim forged college diplomas for himself and the other deportees and submitted them to schools, academies, and ward offices, and Kim himself taught students at two middle schools in Seoul's Yangjae-dong and Seongsu-dong neighbourhoods, as well as at a district office.

According to the police, the middle schools and ward offices that hired them did not even confirm the authenticity of the diplomas that had been submitted to and registered at Kim's employment agency, and Kim took part in widespread exchanges with the deportees and arranged regular meetings with them, constantly managing them.

In other words, as a group the deportees and those illegally hired as English instructors kept up the act. In an incident in May when arrests were made by Mapo police for manufacturing methamphetamine using cold medicine, Kim also provided funds and the main culprits of the incident were found to be deportees working as English hagwon instructors.

syh@breaknews.com

[Shocking testimony] Low quality native speaking instructor expulsion site manager Mr. K
"The only thing left [to encounter among foreign instructors] is a murderer."

The informant Mr. K, who has contributed detailed reports on the realities of unqualified and low quality foreign instructors to this paper, pointed out that it is the natural result of the worrying things that have been revealed one by one.

Kim said, "There are many native speaker instructors who have faked their diplomas and habitually molested women while taking drugs and having stoned parties," and criticized [the authorities], saying "I've requested that the E-2 visa be strengthened and that criminal records [be required] but things haven't improved."

Kim said, "The things that we were concerned about are actually appearing in society. Sexual molester instructors and drug [taking] instructors have been caught by police. All that is left is a foreign instructor with a murder record or one with a criminal past who may commit murder. The suspect in the [JonBenét] Ramsey case had actually been an instructor in Korea, so who can guarantee that there won't be a second Ramsey incident?" he said, and demanded thorough government-level supervision follow upon the English craze.

Kim is currently conducting a campaign at agencies relevant to drug [taking] native speaking instructors to attach medical certificates and criminal record checks. In addition, he is preparing materials and is in contact with policy makers and lawmakers so as to strongly urge the inclusion of medical certificates and criminal record checks for native speaking instructors.

Kim has also made this recommendation to the Ministry of Justice's Immigration Office. The following is the full content of Kim's October 6 petition:

"Please include a medical examination certificate and a criminal record check with the E-2 visa. Even if you would rather not bring up the qualification problem of native speaking English instructors, you will know enough about it from the authorities. Looking at the Ramsay incident now, the problem with native speaking English instructors is becoming more and more serious. E-2 visa applicant countries Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa must include a medical certificate for an employment visa. Whether or not they committed an offense is also an issue so it must be included. Only in Korea do we not include them due to issues with human rights or instructor supply and demands. This means many disqualified people will not be blocked. However, these documents are included for native speaking assistant teachers [hired by] the Ministry of Education. As the E-2 visa is a visa related to English language education, it should be administered more strictly. If a second Ramsay incident occurs in Korea, who will assume the responsibility? A medical check can block an influx of native speaking instructors who use drugs and have sexually transmitted diseases, and a criminal record check can block instructors with criminal records. Children are being exposed to great danger. Please add medical examination certificates and criminal record checks to the documents [needed] for E-2 visas. Once something happens it will be too late."

In response to Kim's complaint, the Immigration Inspection Division sent a response on Oct. 17 saying it could not enforce this for reasons of protecting personal information and privacy violations"

"As there are many problems to consider such as personal information protection, invasion of privacy and the principle of reciprocity, requesting a foreign criminal record and medical certificate prior to entering the country and blocking entry beforehand cannot be implemented. However, we will continue to strengthen the conversation instruction (E-2) visa issuance screening and establish continuous measures through consultation with institutions related to [foreigners] sojourns."

In regard to this, Kim emphasized that, "This is directly related to the safety of students and our children, and even though criminals and unqualified people are openly with children even in schools due to lax management of them, and more than saying preposterous things like checking into foreign instructors' criminal past at the time of entry goes against protection of personal information, it's urgent to prepare more concrete measures."

Thursday, August 02, 2018

UN Human Rights Committee rules against E-2 HIV and drug testing

Benjamin Wagner reports that the UN Human Rights Committee has decided that, in trying to force a foreign university teacher on an E-2 visa to submit to HIV tests, South Korea has violated article 17 (right to privacy) and article 26 (nondiscrimination) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

This case at the UN Human Rights Committee goes back five years, but in fact it reaches back further to events in 2009 that led Andrea Vandom, who refused to take an HIV test when teaching English at a university in Korea, to bring her case before the Constitutional Court, which ultimately rejected her petition in 2011 (but did not rule whether the testing was constitutional or not). More on that Court's decision and the background going back to 2009 can be found here.

This is a separate case from the CERD case, more about which can be found here.

Additionally, the "UN Human Rights Committee has found ROK’s current mandatory drug testing policy for foreign teachers in S. Korea is a violation of international law." The Committee's report is available here. Below are pertinent paragraphs from the report:
10. In accordance with article 2(3) (a) of the Covenant, the State party is under an obligation to provide the author with an effective remedy. This requires it to make full reparation to individuals whose Covenant rights have been violated. Accordingly, the State party is obligated, inter alia, to provide the author with adequate compensation. Additionally, the State party is under the obligation to take steps to avoid similar violations in the future, including reviewing its legislation to ensure that it is in compliance with the Covenant, and that mandatory and other coercive forms of HIV/AIDS and drug testing is abolished, and if already abolished, not reintroduced.  
11. Bearing in mind that, by becoming a party to the Optional Protocol, the State party has recognized the competence of the Committee to determine whether there has been a violation of the Covenant and that, pursuant to article 2 of the Covenant, the State party has undertaken to ensure to all individuals within its territory or subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the Covenant and to provide an effective and enforceable remedy when it has been determined that a violation has occurred, the Committee wishes to receive from the State party, within 180 days, information about the measures taken to give effect to the Committee’s Views. The State party is also requested to publish the present Views and disseminate them broadly in the official language of the State party.
While this is good news, we'll have to see what happens. It took two years for the government to react to the CERD ruling, and that was only after the National Human Rights Commission recommended the government stop its mandatory HIV testing of foreign English teachers.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Spring 1980: The Yongsan Golf Course incident

An article in the Korea Times written for Yongsan Legacy discusses the Yongsan golf course that was once located where the National Museum now stands. It reminds me of a story I did not include in my series "The 1980 Kwangju Uprising and the United States," but is worth sharing, revealing as it does another example of the antipathy between Chun Doo-hwan and U.S. General John Wickham. This is from James V. Young's book Eye on Korea: An Insider Account of Korean-American Relations, page 92:
This relationship [between Chun Doo-hwan and General Wickham] grew worse after an incident on the Yongsan Golf Course in early spring [1980]. Chun, by now a three-star general. had arrived at Yongsan for lunch and a round of golf. In those days, since he was concerned about his own safety. Chun traveled with an impressive number of body- guards.When the minister of defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, or other senior Korean officers used this facility, they arrived with a single aide and driver. Chun, in contrast, had an entourage fit for a king. At one point he had a security detail and personal staff of almost twenty people, and several cars were necessary to transport them all. General Wickham either saw or was told of the size of this group and apparently was upset by the ostentatious display. He directed that Chun’s large detail not be allowed to use the clubhouse and other facilities until such time as they were reduced to a level consistent with other officers of his rank and position. Wickham made it clear that Chun himself was welcome, though with a reduced staff. This was a reasonable request, but either through misunderstanding or an unwillingness to comply, Chun was infuriated. He and his group left in a big huff, never to return. The feelings between Wickham and Chun had reached a new low point.
And on the topic of Yongsan Legacy, I rather enjoyed Nam Sang-so's story about the mural US soldiers left behind in a Gyeongsangbuk-do town during the war and its enduring influence.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Arrival of South Vietnamese Refugees in Korea in 1975

Last Wednesday the Korea Times published my latest article, about the arrival of Vietnamese refugees in Busan after the fall of South Vietnam in 1975. The article opens with a quotation from a July 2, 1975 Korea Times article by Pham Thudung commenting on her appreciation for the Korean Red Cross and the way it helped the refugees. The rest of the article, however, was about the college junior's memory of leaving Vietnam, of how they did not have enough passes for their entire family, and her anguish at having to leave her brother behind.

From the Korea Times, July 2, 1975. 

The refugees were carried from Vietnam by two ROK Navy LSTs on April 26, days before South Vietnam surrendered.

Photo by a crew member of one of the LSTs of Vietnamese at Newport Terminal, near Saigon, preparing to board the LSTs. From the Donga Ilbo, May 22, 1975.

Over a hundred Koreans were left behind, and they gathered in the compound of the Korean Embassy at 107 Nguyen Du Street, where the flag was lowered on April 29, 19 years after the embassy opened. The remaining 148 Koreans were evacuated by the US to Guam, including Korea Times/Hankook Ilbo correspondent Ahn Byung-chan:

From the Korea Times, May 6, 1975.

Before the refugees arrived in Busan, authorities converted a former girls' high school into a refugee camp:


"The former high school where refugees from Vietnam will be accommodated. Water tanks and tents have been prepared." From the Kyonghyang Sinmun, May 12, 1975.

On May 13, the two LSTs arrived in Busan.


From the Korea Times, July 2, 1975.


 "In the land of her father: First steps into a new life of freedom - A baby held by her mother stares with wide eyes at her father's country [followed by] happy children." From the Kyonghyang Sinmun, May 13, 1975.

From the Korea Times, May 14, 1975.

As an aside, their arrival came on a busy day in South Korea:


Park Chung-hee had used the fall of South Vietnam as an opportunity to claim in a speech that Korea's situation was so precarious that urgent measures were needed. This came after Emergency Measure 7 closed Korea University due to protests there (many other universities were soon also closed), and Park urged students to pay attention to the fate of South Vietnam's dissidents. After a million-person rally for total national security at Yeouido, Park issued Emergency Measure 9, which banned all criticism of the government, among other things.

Returning to the refugees, according to a May 14 Korea Times article, Capt. Kwon Sang-ho, who was in charge of the ships, said they had originally left Busan April 9 with relief supplies for Vietnam and arrived April 22. When the war turned for the worst suddenly on April 25, Korean ambassador Kim Yong-hwan asked the ships to load refugees. The LSTs first carried 1,908 refugees, but 567 Vietnamese were unloaded at Phu Quoc Island (near Cambodia) at the request of the Saigon government.

On May 13, 3,000 friends, relatives, and others awaited the LST’s arrival at Busan port, including Busan’s mayor, former Korean ambassador to Vietnam Yu Yang-su, and South Vietnam ambassador to Korea Pham Xuan Chieu.

From the Korea Times, May 14, 1975.

After 17 days at sea, LSTs No. 810 and 815 landed in Busan at 8:35 am on the 13th and began unloading the refugees shortly after 9:00. The refugees were made up of 355 men, 425 women, and 562 children. They included 392 South Vietnamese nationals who had no relatives or any other connection in Korea. They were all ushered into 31 buses and taken to the refugee camp. There was no welcoming ceremony on the pier due to security concerns, and no relatives or friends were allowed into the site of disembarkation.

"At the refugee camp, the evacuees were accommodated in 43 rooms. Some 162 officials and workers are assigned to the refugee camp for treatment of the refugees. They include 25 officials of the relief center, four doctors, 11 nurses, 21 guards, two security officers, 15 Red Cross volunteers, two interpreters, 43 guides and 25 cooks." The Korean government was to spend 107 million won for the initial accommodation of the refugees, who were housed in the former Busan Girls' High School building in Seodaesin-dong. Those refugees with relatives or sponsors in Korea were to start leaving the camp on May 28.

"Rediscovered smiles: After 17 days, Vietnamese refugees embraced by free Korea arrive at a medical relief station and seem to sigh in relief, unsure of what to do next." From the Kyonghyang Sinmun, May 13, 1975.

From the Korea Times, May 14, 1975.

"First breakfast in Daihan [Korea]." From the Donga Ilbo, May 14, 1975.

This little girl seems prepared for Korea. From the Donga Ilbo, June 7, 1975.

Laundry hanging at the refugee camp. From the Kyonghyang Sinmun, May 14, 1975.

Refugees exchange money at a bank counter (which appears to be in a bus). From the Maeil Gyeongje, May 15, 1975.

From the Korea Times, May 25, 1975.

From the Korea Times, May 15, 1975.

From the Korea Times, June 6, 1975.

On May 23, 215 more refugees arrived on the cargo ship Twin Dragon, which had rescued them from four sinking South Vietnamese naval ships and brought them to Busan after Thailand and the US refused to accept them. Below is the route of the Twin Dragon, which left Incheon on April 23, picked up the refugees on May 2, arrived in Bangkok on May 5, left Bangkok May 12, and arrived in Busan on May 23.


The Twin Dragon. From the Kyonghyang Sinmun, May 22, 1975.

From the Korea Times, May 24, 1975.

From the Korea Times, May 24, 1975.

"Vietnamese refugees arriving at the medical relief station. Embraced by the free land of Daihan [Korea], the refugees sigh in relief." From the Kyonghyang Sinmun, May 24, 1975.

One reason I did not spend much time on numbers in my article is that they vary from article to article. The following information is from the Korea Times, unless stated otherwise:

June 14, 1975
  • 1,341 total; 988 Vietnamese, 33 Chinese, 1 Filipino, 319 Koreans.
June 15, 1975
  • 1335 total (revised after arrival at the refugee camp)
May 24, 1975
  • The Twin Dragon carried 215 refugees – 175 men, 40 women
June 4, 1975
  • 1040 total – 820 on LSTs [and so 220 on the Twin Dragon]
December 17, 1975, Korea Herald
  • 546 Vietnamese were still in Korea: 473 who already settled with Korean relatives, and 73 without relatives to be settled in Korea the next day. 1004 already left. 1004 + 546 = 1,550 total. This corresponds with the revised number above of 1335 arrivals on the LSTs and 215 on the Twin Dragon.
January 1, 1976
  • 584 Vietnamese settled in Korea out of a total 1,562, and 978 settled abroad. 78 (rather than 73) on settled in Korea on December 19.
Needless to say, there is quite a bit of variation there.

According to a December 9, 1975 Kyunghyang Sinmun article, the refugees received from the first day enough clothes, bedding, and three meals a day with often changing nutritious menus, and so had been warmly treated by the Korean government and citizens. The refugees had become so used to Korean food, one said, that it was hard to eat rice without kimchi.

Beyond such self-congratulatory material, the article is full of information. As mentioned before, those with ties to Korea were able to leave the refugee camp from May 28, and by June many had expressed a desire to leave Korea. (According to this page, ultimately 697 settled in the US, 506 in Korea, 167 in Canada, 53 in France, 45 in Taiwan, and 14 elsewhere.) After so many refugees emigrated to other countries between May and September, the remaining 118 refugees were moved from the refugee camp at the school to a new one located in 12 classrooms of the former Police School in Goejeong-dong on September 23.

Those without relatives or friends in Korea or overseas to provide money had been given pocket money by the Korean Red Cross, and guides had taken them around the city. Many learned the streets well enough to go shopping in markets or department stores by themselves. At Chuseok, 63 Busan households invited the refugees into their homes to familiarize them with Korean customs and serve them delicious food.

From October 1, a Korean teacher came and taught the refugees Korean from 9am to 12pm every morning. The authorities also took seven young men to the Korean-German vocational training center where they were taught electronic technology every afternoon from 1:00 to 5:00. 23 young women were likewise taken to a women's center every afternoon to learn dressmaking and knitting so as to help them to be able to make a living when they settled in Korea.

According to Son Jeong, head of the refugee camp, he had received around 150 letters thanking the Korean government for its support, including 4 from Din, who had moved to Australia to work as a high school English teacher, and who said he thought of Korea as his second home. Seven children were born in the camp; two were named Busan, after the city that took them in.

The remaining 73 (or 78?) refugees left in the camp moved to homes throughout the nation (except Jeju). As explained in my article, the Office of Labor Affairs arranged jobs for 56 of those refugees who settled in Korea at a variety of companies, including at factories, and the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs provided a subsidy to cover six months of living expenses. Many found adjusting to the cold winter weather to be a challenge.

From the Korea Herald, December 17, 1975.

A few articles discussed their first Tet holiday in January 1976.

From the Korea Times, February 1, 1976.

And I always found this article about first Vietnamese restaurant in Seoul to be interesting.

From the Korea Times, August 13, 1976.

What happened to these Vietnamese refugees in Korea is a question that has crossed my mind more than once. One article in early 1976 suggested they were just going to "become Korean" and blend in. Did their children face prejudice? One would imagine those who married into Korean families might have had an easier time, but it's hard to know for sure.

I was contacted by one of the refugees who ultimately settled in the US, and he wondered where the refugee camp in Busan was. It has taken some searching but I seem to have found the answer.

There is little information about the camp other than that it was at the former location of Busan Girls' High School. What proved helpful in tracking down its location was this page, which alerted me to the fact that the school also served another function with an international connection in the 1950s. In the mid-1950s West Germany sent medical support and the school became the German Red Cross Hospital. Images of it appear in this brief clip:



This blog post provides some interesting historical photos, such as this one:


A larger view of the former school can be seen in the previously-posted photo below:


The building with its portico can also be made out in the background of this photo:


The aforementioned blog post also provided a photo of a stone monument erected in 1997 commemorating the German Red Cross Hospital. More information about the hospital can be found at this blog post, which includes directions to the monument. It can be reached from exit 8 of Dongdaesin station on Busan line 1.


According to Busan Girls' High School's website, it was established in 1945 under the US military government and in April 1946 it moved to Seodaesin-dong 1 ga 53 beonji (서대신동1가 53번지). A US military map from 1946 shows Sunch'i Hospital (부산순치병원) at that location.


Because aspects of this 1946 map are based in part on a 1937 Japanese map, some parts of it could be almost a decade out of date. According to this page, the Japanese-established Busan City Hospital (부산부립병원) moved to a new location in 1936 (currently the location of Busan University Hospital) and at that time it merged with Sunchi Hospital, which was established in 1879 as Busan Isolation Hospital (부산피병원) in response to a cholera outbreak. This merging with Busan City Hospital would have left the building open for use as a school in 1946. In early May 1975 Busan Girls' High School moved west to its current location in Hadan-dong, just in time for it to be converted into a refugee camp. Based on the above clues, this is the likely location of the former school / refugee camp today.


(It should be noted that Goejeong-dong, the location of the former Police School where the remaining refugees were moved on September 23, was further to the west.) Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, the school has disappeared and newer development has taken its place, with only the German Hospital monument located a block away there to remind people of its existence. That there is no monument to the refugee camp is not surprising; considering the growing importance of the relationship between Vietnam and South Korea today, a monument to the people who fled the current government would likely not be received with much enthusiasm by Vietnam.

There are some odd connections to be made with the various institutions on the site of the refugee camp. It seems to have first been established as an isolation hospital in the late 1800s, only to become a place to 'isolate' refugees. More positively, it was the site of the German Red Cross Hospital in the mid-1950s, and the Korean Red Cross played a prominent role in operating the refugee camp for Vietnamese two decades later.

Korea's willingness to accept Vietnamese refugees was short-lived, however. As I mentioned here, after "boat people" began trying to escape Vietnam and Cambodia from 1977, South Korea reacted rather differently:
The ROK went out of its way to stop its ships from picking up Indochinese "boat people," firing a captain who did so and confining those boat people who did arrive to a newly built 'Vietnamese people’s relief center'. "Although criticized for such an approach (Koh 2011), officials pressed hard for third-country resettlement, and as a result, not a single Indochinese refugee who arrived between 1977 and 1989 was permitted to settle in South Korea."
That Captain was Jeon Je-yong (전제용), about whom more can be read here (and here and here).

[Update, July 31]

According to this recent Yonhap article, the Vietnamese Refugee Center opened in 1977 at 1008 beonji, Jaesong-dong, Haeundae-gu (해운대구 재송동 1008번지), which at the time was near "Suyeong Airport, the former airport of Busan," which has since been developed into Centum City.


The Refugee Center was closed January 29, 1993 after the establishment of diplomatic relations between the ROK and Vietnam a month previous. "Around 150 refugees who were unable to find a place to settle abroad were able to establish a new home in New Zealand due to the devoted efforts of American businessman John Manor [? 존 매너], then director of the shoe company, and his wife."

Commenter Will found this video about the closure of the Refugee Center, which also includes black and white footage of the Vietnamese refugees arriving in May 1975:



[Back to the original post.]

South Korea's involvement in the Vietnam War highlighted ties going back centuries, helped kick start South Korea's economic development, left a legacy of brutality (which President Moon recently made a statement of regret for), and contributed to the establishment of the Yushin regime (see Tae-yang Kwak's work). It also provided a number of human interest stories, such as the young woman who came to Korea in 1967 looking for the father she'd never seen, who met her mother when he was serving in the Japanese Army in Vietnam during WWII (and who married a Korean, the head of the Vietnam branch of Korean Optics, in Saigon the next year). Other stories refer to Koreans who had served in Vietnam during WWII in the Japanese army and who had stayed on and lived in South Vietnam for decades.

Beyond that, the Vietnamese refugees, especially those who stayed in Korea, were among the first foreigners in modern South Korea to be prepared to adapt to life in Korea by Korean authorities. One wonders if any of that educational material remains, and how it might compare to more recent cultural adaptation programs.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Anti-Refugee Protests: Ordinary citizens, petitions, and K-populism

The Anti-Refugee Protests

Part 1: Xenophobia, the media, and citizens groups
Part 2: The dark side of candlelight protests
Part 3: Ordinary citizens, petitions, and K-populism

On June 21, at the blog of "Ordinary Citizen," the following message was posted:
I am just an ordinary citizen
I am just one among many ordinary citizens.
Politically I don't lean in any direction.
I am not progressive or conservative.
Leaving political views behind, I want to live while at ease in the land where I was born and I want my parents and children to live in a safe world, and with only this in mind I have established this blog.
As I am not someone belonging to any group I am frankly frightened to start this alone, but, with a sense of responsibility, I am trying to start it
I want to protect our country, our citizens, and our family.
Moving forward, I hope that many people will help and participate in rallies against accommodating refugees that may take months to resolve.
The URL of this blog, blog.naver.com/the_public_of_korea, also highlights the ordinary citizen - Korean public connection. At left is an image of Korea's national flower, the Rose of Sharon, and below it is the purpose of the blog - to promote the June 30 anti-refugee rally. The fact that is a blog and not a cafe initially suggested one person was running it, something indicated by the message posted above. While it's possible there was a larger group behind it, and that the above message was constructed so as to attract people with its 'humble member of the public' tone (one similar to the tone of the message by Angma, who suggested the first candlelight protest in 2002 (search for his name here)), the fact that others went on to promote the second anti-refugee protest at a different blog and created a Naver Cafe which is far less subtle in its message makes me think it may indeed have been run by one person (or a small group).

The URL of the Naver Cafe, called the "Citizen Action for Refugee Countermeasures" is a bit more blunt - cafe.naver.com/refugeeout - though it's nothing compared its banner image:


Their poster for the second rally, held July 14 in Seoul, Gwangju, Iksan, and Jeju, reads as follows:

Citizens First
Repatriate the Yemenis in Jeju
Abolish the Refugee Law
Abolish the visa-free [entry] system





The protest took place as planned July 14 in Seoul at Gwanghwamun, but according to this article only 500 turned out this time.

 (From here

(From here

Some of the signs at this protest read:
Abolish the Refugee Law citizens did not consent to – abolish visa-free [entry]
Don't be like Europe,
Denounce biased press reports - demand impartial reports,
Repatriate fake refugees,
Turn your head and look at incidents in Europe now
According to the aforementioned article, protesters repeatedly shouted lines from article 1, paragraph 2, of the constitution: "The sovereignty of the Republic of Korea shall reside in the people, and all state authority shall emanate from the people." Elaborating on the 'citizens first' signs, it was said, "We want to abolish the refugee law and visa-free [entry] system that reverse discriminates against citizens."

Rep. Cho Kyung-tae of the Liberty Korea Party, who on July 12 submitted one bill to abolish the refugee law and another mandating Jeju abolish visa-free entry (other National Assembly representatives are also planning bills) spoke at the rally, saying that much larger countries than Korea, like Russia and China, don't accept many refugees. He called on Moon Jae-in to reply to the petition signed by 700,000 citizens and also promised to "take the lead in abolishing the refugee law and the visa-free entry."

The petition in question, begun on June 13, was titled "Petition to [constitutionally] amend / abolish permission to apply for refugee [status], visa-free entry, and the Refugee Law which allowed illegal refugee application problem on Jeju Island." It gained 714,875 signatures over one month, making it the most signed petition since the Blue House Petition system set was up by Moon Jae-in in August 2017. For more information on this system, this Joongang Ilbo article is useful.

Inspired by the White House petition system (set up in 2011), the Blue House petition system had seen 220,000 petitions registered in its first ten months, and "nearly 700 new ones are submitted daily." As well, "The Blue House promises to give a formal response to petitions that have received 200,000 signatures or more in one month." As the Joongang Ilbo put it,
The petition system has proven popular, but some petitions are malicious and others are just silly. After the South Korean national team’s loss to Sweden in its first World Cup match, a string of petitions emerged demanding some players be expelled from the national team for their disappointing performances.
As well, during this year's winter Olympics, after speed skaters Kim Bo-Reum and Park Ji Woo left their teammate Noh Seon-Yeong behind in a team race (a move which did not benefit them), "a petition was started on President Moon Jae-in’s website asking that Kim and Park be banned from the national team because “it is a clear national disgrace that such people with a personality problem are representing a country in the Olympics.” The petition garnered over 400,000 signatures. As well, a petition calling for the termination of the translator who did the Korean subtitles for the most recent Avengers movie was also posted.

Responding to criticism of such petitions, Ko Min-jung, a deputy Blue House spokesperson, told the Joongang Ilbo that
“While the current system is not entirely free of problems, I nevertheless think the collective wisdom of the masses is working,” she emphasized. “Taking down the petition board,” Ko continued, “would be like taking away a microphone that people now have in their hands to make their voices heard regardless of their social status or age.”
Shin Jang-sik, secretary general of the minor progressive Justice Party, on the other hand, stated that
“What worries me about the petition board is that it could be misused as an outlet for fake news, or a venting of anger or disgust against a particular group of people, rather than a platform to make rightful demands to the government.” 
As the Korea Herald reported, such venting was aimed at the Queer Festival in Seoul:
More than 200,000 Koreans signed an online petition asking the presidential office to disallow the upcoming queer parade, which is scheduled to be held in central Seoul on Saturday. The petition, which was first filed on June 14, asked the authorities to ban two queer events -- the upcoming parade in Seoul and another event that was held in Daegu on June 23. “We are not discriminating against sexual minorities,” the petition reads. “But Seoul City Square belongs to all citizens.” The petitioners called the events “distasteful,” saying some of its content, displayed publicly, is “inappropriate for children.”
While the above petition, which is here, and reached 219,987 signatures, may not be openly hateful, when I searched for it  at the Blue House petition site, (by doing a search for "퀴어축제" (Queer Festival)), I had to go past 82 other petitions, despite only a month having gone by since it was posted. Thirteen were added on July 14 and 15 alone, with titles like "Please call sexual minorities 'sexual perverts,'" "Treating AIDS is a waste of tax-payers' precious money," "Homosexuals are sexual perverts, sex addicts, and mental patients. Oppose the Queer Festival," "Oppose using taxes to treat AIDS that comes from homosexuals," "Permitting the Queer Festival is responsible for future diseases and the confusion of citizens." While the Blue House spokesperson is likely correct about "collective wisdom" in general (few people had signed the above petitions), it is still disturbing that such ideas are posted on the president's website, which can lend a veneer of legitimacy to them.

The Blue House petition system is different than the existing civil petition system that allows people to petition specific government agencies for redress or complaints (such as the Ministry of Employment and Labor). Anti-English Spectrum used civil petitions to the Ministry of Justice to point to "troubling" news reports about foreign English teachers (which they had helped create) and asked that changes be made to the system. But these were not public. AES posted information and sample petitions at its site to mobilize its members to submit petitions, but once posted on government websites they could not be seen.

The Blue House petition system is more reminiscent of the online petitions that Daum hosted, such as one calling for the expulsion of "low quality foreign instructors" in 2005 or one titled "Demand that the National Assembly impeach Lee Myung-bak" in 2008 (which accompanied the candlelight protests and garnered 1.4 million signatures). The Blue House petition system allows people to easily share the petitions via social media and essentially centralizes such petitions on the Blue House website. They are not only potentially legitimized by their association with the Blue House, they are also easy for the media to focus on, and reports by news organizations can attract more signatures to the petitions. As well, some petitions, such as one launched June 21 that was posted merely to promote the June 30 anti-refugee rally, exist only to use the Blue House website as a promotional platform. In the past, signature campaigns on Daum were aided by news reports and could result in media-driven cyber mobs descending on certain websites (like English Spectrum, or even the Olympic Website after the Ohno incident in 2002). And it should not be forgotten that one of the earliest 'internet mobs' to gain media attention worldwide was that which sought to punish the "dog poop girl" of Seoul's Line 2 subway in 2005. As I quoted Linda Lewis (who was drawing on Vincent Brandt) at the time,
the Korean cultural scenario for conflict resolution involves the public expression of grievances by both sides, as a means of informing the neighbors, of shaping local consensus, and of mustering popular support for each side of the argument.
This, however, is presented as a dialectic; both sides present their points of view and the public (or, in villages, the neighbors) listen and choose a side. A petition, however, does not involve a dialectic - it presents a demand with which people can agree or disagree. In this way it is similar, at least in some ways, to a referendum, a topic which John Ralston Saul discussed in Reflections Of A Siamese Twin: Canada At The End Of The Twentieth Century. As he put it,
In a referendum society, language and argument as the central tools of democracy are swept away. They are replaced by a goal-oriented process which reduces the citizen’s real participation to passive acquiescence or refusal; a participation which is expressed through one of two single-syllable words.[Pg 248]
He also wrote that "The point is that this political movement is in constant search of a winning vocabulary." "Not one which describes anything clearly, but what one which is least likely to frighten people."[Pg 253] As I noted above, this is where the "collective wisdom" of the public was applied in not signing openly homophobic petitions, but instead signing one which stated that “We are not discriminating against sexual minorities.” Since the petitions with more moderate language are more likely to draw "yes votes," perhaps this fairly direct engagement with the Blue House isn't such a bad thing after all.

But there is another problem with the Blue House petition system. As the Joongang Ilbo put it, this system
allows the Blue House to lead the national discussion on its domestic agenda and pull the public and media’s attention away from the National Assembly, which is supposed to do the job of listening to constituents’ demands. […] Korea’s parliament received the lowest level of trust, 15 percent, among all state institutions in a Gallup Korea poll conducted last year.
So not only are "language and argument as the central tools of democracy" replaced by the petition with the "winning formula" (moderate vocabulary that will convince people to sign and may even conceal the intentions of those posting the petition), the system also diverts attention from the National Assembly, which, in a healthy democracy, should be a key representative institution. Public distrust of these institutions is precisely what drew so many people into the streets in 2016. As Katherine Moon put it,
“I find worrisome this glorification of South Korea’s protests,” she says. “If governance structures were working properly then citizens normally would be channeling their concerns through institutional processes—reaching out to their elected leaders, going to the courts. Spilling out into the street is a sign of political dysfunction.”
On top of the glorification of protests, there has also been a glorification of the primacy of the citizen. As B.R. Myers noted, a card - one of hundreds - written to the Constitutional Court in December 2016 read: "Honorable judge. The people are above the Constitution. Please consider the hearts and minds of the people." While judges ideally should not be swayed by public feeling, it certainly happened in the case of the GI involved in the 2004 Sinchon stabbing incident:
[T]he judge told me he would give me a self defense sentence which was typically 2+ years… even though I was convicted of attempted murder. Basically the conviction was to appease the people of S. Korea, and the sentence was relative to a "self defense with a deadly weapon" conviction in that country. The judge was truly fair to both parties in that aspect.
While it was fair to the soldier, one wonders if delivering an unwarranted, pro forma verdict to please the public and then making up for it with a light sentence is good for the rule of law. Considering the way people seem to expect courts' decisions to reflect public sentiment, it is perhaps not surprising that Defense Security Command was worried about what might happen if the Constitutional Court did not uphold Park's impeachment against the will of the people. Whatever disrespect for the rule of law such potential protests might have conveyed, however, is outweighed by the DSC's plan for martial law with after-the-fact approval and plans to impede any attempts by the National Assembly to end martial law. And so we see threats - some more serious than others - to Korean democratic institutions from several sides.

In describing the primacy of the citizen, Mike Breen wrote during the 2016 candlelight protests that in Korea,
when popular emotion over an issue reaches a certain critical mass it morphs into a beast that is so powerful that it steps up and overwhelms decision-making on a grand scale. We call the beast "public sentiment," but neither this English translation nor the Korean words really convey what it is. That is because the more accurate naming - the people, the masses, the mob - implies something negative in our individualistic world and fails to convey that the beast is viewed as morally good.
Hence statements like "The people are above the Constitution" are not seen as alarming. Sohn Hak-kyu said something similar during the 2008 candlelight protests: "Public perception is no less important than rational judgement" (as Scott Burgeson described it, this statement "seems less an expression of populist solidarity with 'the people' than an unwitting critique of nationalism run amok.") During those protests, the organizers issued the following ultimatum on June 11, 2008: "If the government decides to ignore the mandate from the people, who hold the sovereign power in this country, we will not hesitate to launch a campaign to drive President Lee Myung-bak out of office." Lee, by that point, had been in power only a few months and had won the 2007 election by a margin of 5 million votes. Burgeson described the 2008 protests as an "attempted coup e'tat – and therefore both anti-constitutional and profoundly anti-democratic in nature." As noted previously, Moon Jae-in, who essentially came to power due to Park Geun-hye's impeachment, unsurprisingly lauded the 2016 candlelight protests as "an honorable civil revolution that inherited [the] spirit [of the 1919 March 1 movement]."

2018: "I am an ROK citizen. Citizens first. Citizens want safety."

As noted above, protesters at the July 14 protests repeatedly shouted lines from article 1, paragraph 2, of the constitution: "The sovereignty of the Republic of Korea shall reside in the people, and all state authority shall emanate from the people." One wonders if, in their perception, this paragraph lauding the role of citizens supersedes everything else in the constitution. It is precisely for this reason, however, that people have been upset at attempts by the Moon Jae-in government to change this paragraph as part of planned revisions to the constitution.


I took the above photo in February 2018 in front of the National Assembly. It reads: "April: Reconciliation (North South Summit), May: Peace (North US Summit), June: Revision of the Constitution (Citizen-centered Constitutional Revision). Brought to you by the Democratic Party."

As Chosun.com reported in February, for three weeks that month at an official website, citizens voted on 28 possible provisions that could be changed in a revised constitution. One provision that gained the most attention was the suggestion that the subject of basic rights in the constitution should be expanded from "citizens" to "people." When the article was written there were 10,494 votes in favor and 9,531 votes against. The pertinent section of the president’s suggested revision reads:
Considering the level of human rights that the international community expects from us and the shape of our society in the era of 2 million foreigners, we need to expand the [definition of who is] subject to fundamental rights. Characterized by respect for innate human rights such as human dignity, the right to pursue happiness, the right to equality, the right to life, freedom of body, freedom of privacy, freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, fundamental rights of information, and freedom of study and art, the subject of these fundamental rights is expanded from "citizen" to "people."
This proposed expansion of guarantees to non-citizens was opposed by some. A representative of an online café called "Citizens who love South Korea" described his opposition to this proposed change, saying that giving equal rights to foreigners, such as right to equality, means that they could sue the state for discriminatory treatment, while freedom of religion could provide a means for Islamic radicalism and fundamentalists like IS to enter Korea. Giving them equal rights would remove "the minimum safeguards to protect our nation from external radicalism" and would also lead to another result: "The Republic of Korea will be swarmed with foreigners from poor countries all over the world" As the representative further put it,
The current constitution alone already fully guarantees the rights of foreigners. A serious issue in our country is the problem of discrimination against our own people. Above all, due to the irresponsible inflow of foreign workers and illegal aliens, Korean workers are excluded from the labor market, which leads to serious deprivation of their right to live. Now is not the time to "ladle out rights" to foreigners to whom we have no obligations, but rather it is time to protect the rights of our own citizens. If there is a problem in exercising the basic rights of foreigners, it is a matter to be adjusted and fixed within the boundaries of individual bills.
It's worth noting that Constitutional Court Judge Kim Jong Dae disagreed with the first sentence above. In response to the Vandom case regarding HIV testing of foreign teachers at the Constitutional Court, Judge Kim stated that "[Under] our Constitution only 'citizens' [gungmin] are entitled to fundamental rights while the legal status of foreigners falls within the range of international law and international treaties."

As for the "problem of discrimination against our own people," this was, as noted above, referred to months later at the most recent anti-refugee rally, where protesters said, "We want to abolish the refugee law and visa-free [entry] system that reverse discriminates against citizens." This belief in reverse discrimination is reflected in the opposition to "fake" refugees whose "real reason" for coming to Korea is just to find work, and therefore to steal jobs from Koreans. This kind of rhetoric also appeared when Jasmine Lee, the Philippine-born naturalized Korean citizen who became a Saenuri Party lawmaker in 2012, was targeted in racially-based online attacks. Among the netizens' comments were "We’ll see the truth of multiculturalism that exploits Koreans" or "Korea is a paradise for foreigners. Korea gives foreigners benefits which it doesn’t even give to its nationals. Come to Korea, you can become lawmakers." 

This was quite similar to the netizen comments and parody posters made in 2005 about English teachers, along the lines of 'Come to Korea, you'll be treated like a king.' Mind you, in regard to "unqualified foreign instructors," this attitude goes back much further, to the first use of that term in 1973, in fact. "Courteous Korea has the politeness to entertain guests," wrote the author of a letter to the Kyonghyang Shinmun, "but I worry that we are displaying a very submissive attitude towards foreigners"; the author also criticized "giving unconditional hospitality to foreigners." A Korean journalist's response in 1984 to a Le Monde article about young French men making money in Seoul by teaching English and French offered his opinion that "It’s possible this treatment of foreigners is unreasonably kind," while another journalist a few days later opined in regard to this that the most important thing was for Koreans to "stand up and have some self respect." These attitudes, while similar to those of today, were motivated more by a quest for national self-respect and disdain for submissiveness or sadaejuui. 

While relating this 'economic threat' / 'we should not be so kind to foreigners' rhetoric with the protesters' desire to tighten regulations to restrict Korea's already very low acceptance of refugee petitions has been framed in terms of xenophobia, something else to consider are Korean attitudes toward various marginalized groups historically. Korean survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki - and their children born since - had to hide this history in order to marry, while those with visible scarring were mistaken for Hansen's Disease patients. Discrimination against those with Hansen's Disease was even turned against children of patients who tested negative for the disease, as seen when parents pulled all of their children out of a school in Seoul for weeks in 1969 due to the presence of five such children. In that case public sentiment overwhelmed the children's fundamental rights, as the government eventually gave in and removed the students to a separate school.


People with HIV/AIDS have been treated abysmally, even by the hospitals tasked with treating them (many others refuse to treat them), and almost half of respondents to one survey said they would not care for a family member with HIV.

NIMBYism in Korea has been expressed by residents near an empty school in Seoul opposing a plan to convert it into a school for the handicapped, with one resident calling a parent of a handicapped student "fake" (the government has since committed to building more such schools). As well, residents in various Seoul districts have protested the construction of public housing for low-income families and youths because it would lead to "housing price drops" and "slumification of the neighborhood." And when the government built a new housing facility for refugees and asylum seekers at a remote location on Yeongjeong Island, near Incheon International Airport, local residents complained and "worried about the possibility of deteriorating security and devaluation of their assets" despite their residences being "quite far from the facility."

Some of the above cases involve involve marginalization of certain groups of Koreans perceived as being "contaminated." A desire to protect bloodlines from these groups is perhaps not so far removed from fears of nationalists obsessed with "pure blood," though in the case of the anti-refugee movement, blood nationalism is likely overshadowed by a defensive form of nationalism that fears victimization at the hands of outsiders and cultural contamination. It should be noted that the latter two fears were encouraged during Park Chung-hee's rule and then taken up by opponents of Park and his successor, Chun Doo-hwan, and their civic group descendants (such as during the 2008 candlelight protests).

Other cases mentioned above involve protests against inclusive treatment for marginalized groups in the name of preserving existing privilege, generally economic privilege. This is not unrelated to the sentiment expressed in the Korean saying "If one cousin buys land, the other cousin gets a stomachache," a sentiment informed by a constant awareness of one's place within various hierarchies. This is added to by the precariousness of life in Korea, be it under a royal dynasty where corruption was rampant, under colonial rule and war, during the developmental period, or amid the rise of "precarious labor" in the post-IMF period, a precariousness that is summed up by the term "Hell Joseon." Equality of citizens in this context seems to mean something akin to "no one may receive better treatment than me" and perhaps informs the criticism by the anti-refugee protesters of "the refugee law and visa-free [entry] system that reverse discriminates against citizens."

Considering this background, and amid rhetoric like "Hell Joseon" and "reverse discrimination," it isn't surprising that there would be criticism of a system that has seen a large increase in the number of (unvetted) refugee applicants, who are given benefits by the government during the application process. Some of those opposed to the system, like the blogger I quoted at the beginning of this post, who was "just one among many ordinary citizens," have approached the issue in a relatively level-headed manner. That blogger openly disassociated himself from the far right and Christian hate groups. This is a far cry from the extremist language (like 'rapefugees') of the Naver cafe, with images like this predicting gang rapes of Korean women. Perhaps this kind of rhetoric resulted in there being a smaller turnout for the second protest; perhaps there were other reasons.

What is interesting about this movement is that if this was a movement on the left, the existing progressive networks would move in and take over the protests, moving them a predictable direction. Because there is no unifying movement on the right similar to that on the left (due to 'civic groups' being a domain of partisan left-wing groups, and because nationalist historical narratives reward the left more than the right), it is hard to know where this movement might go. While 'hunker down in the minjok bunker'-style nationalism based on fear of exploitation by outsiders of the sort usually applied to Westerners (US soldiers, beef exporters, English teachers) could possibly be adapted to the "protect citizens from outsiders" rhetoric elements of the anti-refugee movement have adopted, and could also be marshaled to urge the defense of Korean sovereignty from "the level of human rights that the international community expects from us," it is not yet clear that the bulk of the Korean public would support this.

An important question that deserves the attention of pollsters is to what degree Koreans support adopting Western norms related to human rights and refugees. To be sure, a vocal group of citizens, including those seen protesting with signs reading "Abolish the Refugee Law citizens did not consent to" and  "Denounce biased press reports" while shouting "all state authority shall emanate from the people," clearly disagree with the direction the government has moved in and argue they must be listened to. The petition could have been a starting point for a conversation in Korea about the Refugee Act, the quickly-growing number of applicants, and the direction people would like to see their country move in. Unfortunately, the platform given to the anti-refugee movement by the Blue House petition system and the attention gained by gathering a small crowd of people for a protest seem to have pushed a number of National Assembly representatives into action as they grasp for relevance. The "winning formula" of the petition that gathered so many signatures has instead become a starting point for immediate action by politicians jumping on the bandwagon to curry favor with citizens who distrust their democratic institutions. If the people are indeed "above the constitution," or, as Mike Breen put it, they believe "the people themselves rule," and the government believes its role is simply to react to the latest burst of outrage to emanate from the people, then does the distrust of the government and the loathing expressed in the term "Hell Joseon" not constitute a form of self-loathing? If that's the case, no amount of legal revision is going to solve that problem, especially when the current Blue House is actively encouraging this form of populism.