I deny posting that last entry. Categorically.
From the Metafilter discussion here, an interesting first-hand commentary on racism in Korea, and the double standard that the author felt dominates here.

“In a society so intensely sensitive to racism, I was unable to have a private phone installed in my office for making overseas calls; only Koreans could have telephones in their names. […] I was unable to rent my own apartment near campus since I couldn’t find anyone willing to rent to a “foreigner.” I was unable to buy an apartment (what Americans would call a condo) since only a Korean could own real estate. I was unable to buy a car since only a Korean could legally own a car, and few insurance companies would provide any kind of insurance to “foreigners.” Few students knew of these restrictions placed on expatriates, but they assured me that such regulations were not discriminatory or racist in any way.

(thanks again y2karl!)


Join the conversation! 7 Comments

  1. That’s hard to believe since nearly everything is possible in Korea if you have enough money. I own a brand new car (my third one in Korea), which is insured by a Korean company (no problems finding great rates, thank you very much). I also hold a Korean driver’s license. And I’ve had a phone in my own name for nearly 7 years (no crank calls eventhough my number is listed). Oh, and I recently purchased a condo (no shit). Maybe you simply didn’t get the right information.

  2. so if we’re talkin about racism and stuff, how are black guys and ladies treated in korea?

  3. Over the past four weeks, I have fallen into the habit of addressing a Korean co-teacher by her Korean name, which she had written down for me, and did not seem to object to my using. Now she does, and says I can’t use this name because we are not “friends.” Obviously, I have blundered, and although I have some ideas about how I have erred, I’m not certain. Other details—I am older than her. I am aware that I should not—and I do not—refer to her by her Korean name to our students. Can anyone explain?

  4. Jeez, them are basics, Rob.
    Koreans do not speak to other Koreans using their given names, unless they are close friends, and even then, they usually use relationship words like ‘opa’, ‘oni’ ‘ajasshi’, ‘halmoni’ and so on. For us, the unspoken rule is sometimes relaxed or ignored, but it is still uncomfortable-making.
    How long have you been in Korea that you don’t know this?
    This is the reason many adult Koreans in the ESL industry and elsewhere who have much contact with us foreign devils take a ‘western’ nickname by choice – they’re actually trying to accommodate our need to call people by a given name, as intimates, which strikes them as very odd indeed.
    You haven’t blundered, but you have come across one of the thousands of ways to make people annoyed with you as an insensitive foreigner! Woohoo – it’s a cultural minefield!
    I recommend the BCM press book called ‘Ugly Koreans, Ugly Americans’ for a sometimes ill-conceived and occasionally outright wrong but nonetheless useful survey of ‘cultural differences’ which will make your life here immeasurably easier.

  5. Thanks for the heads-up. Actually, I did–and couldn’t help but know–that Koreans adopt English names, although my understanding of why they do this was inadequate, as your reply has shown me.
    Working as a solo foreigner at this school, I’ve been encouraged to call all the children here by their Korean names, and perhaps that practice pushed me in the direction I took (i.e. assuming it would be ok to carry this over into the adult world). Enough excuses. Thanks again.
    By the way–it IS ok to call children by their Korean names, isn’t it???

  6. Yeah, that’s OK. In fact, if you can remember their names (it took me years to develop enough of an ear for Korean names to remember given names with any reliability, and I still suck at it), it’ll be a big plus for you.
    With kids, though, (and this can be political given the enforced adoption of Japanese names during the occupation during the first half of the 20th century, with adults), nicknames can be fun and good. Not necessarily ‘John’ ‘Biff’ and ‘Mary’, but ‘Wind’ ‘Banana’ and ‘Superman’ type nicknames.
    I haven’t taught kids for years, but they always seemed to enjoy the whole nicknaming process, if you went slow and let them try and come up with something (or gave them something) that suited their personality…

  7. i was wondering… im indian[[like asian indian, from india]], and ive just struck intrest in korea… would people there look at me funny or anything if i went there? just wondering..

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