Friday, November 4, 2011

I'm a Prostitute

Part A: Article used in a discussion class
Part B: Main points of discussion from the actual class
Conclusion: Foreigner = Prostitute

Naturalized Korean decries refusal of entry to sauna

Ku Su-jin, an Uzbek native who was naturalized in Korea, shows her passport indicating Korean nationality during a media briefing at Gyeongnam Migrant Community Service Center in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province, Thursday. Ku said she was prohibited from using a sauna in a case of racial discrimination. / Yonhap

Lack of law against racial discrimination leaves foreigners vulnerable

By Kim Rahn

An ethnic Uzbekistan woman has filed a petition with the National Human Rights Commission after she was denied entrance to a sauna here.

A sauna employee refused to admit to the woman, a naturalized Korean, saying she was still a “foreigner” by appearance and foreign users may “make water in bathtub dirty” and “pass on AIDS.”

Such an action was possible because there is no law on discrimination by race, according to a support center for immigrants.

“Many foreigners face such discrimination often but mostly they remain silent because they don’t speak Korean well and don’t know where they can appeal,” said Ku Su-jin, whose Uzbek name is Karina Kurbanova.

Assisted by a civic group, she held a media briefing at Gyeongnam Migrant Community Service Center in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province, Thursday.

“I’m filing the petition on behalf of other foreigners and especially our children including my seven-year-old boy, as I don’t want him to be discriminated against because of physically appearing different to Koreans,” she said.

Ku visited a sauna in Busan at around 3 p.m. on Sept. 25. But the employee denied her entry, saying foreigners are prohibited.

She reported this immediately to the police.

“The sauna worker told police that foreigners are not allowed there because they may make the water dirty. He also said Koreans customers don’t like using the facility with foreigners because in the town there are many foreign women working at bars and there were rumors that some have AIDS,” she said.

Ku is legally a Korean as she obtained citizenship in 2009 after marrying a Korean man. She told this to the owner, but he said she was a foreigner by appearance.

Police officers said there is no law to regulate such racist discrimination, advising her to go to another sauna, she said.

Officials at the center, who are supporting Ku’s petition, said the owner took advantage of a legal loophole regarding discrimination.

“There are laws banning discrimination by gender or by worker’s status. But there is none governing discrimination by race, not only do Koreans discriminate against foreigners but also Koreans discriminate against other Koreans like in Ku’s case,” a director of the center said.

The director said if the rights commission recommends the sauna to change, the group will help Ku file a civil suit against the sauna owner for the mental distress she sustained.

She said what Ku and the center ultimately call for is the establishment of a law banning discrimination by race, against both foreigners and naturalized Koreans.

“In these modern times when 1.3 million immigrants live here, it is shameful that they have their human rights infringed upon and are deprived of many entitled rights in daily life only because they look different or they came from other countries. Korea claims to stand for multiculturalism, but is far short of laws and systems for immigrants,” the director said.


I used this article in one of my discussion/debate classes.. I'll let you guess which one. My face turned different shades of red during the class, but I kept my anger and disappointment under control for the most part. It made me super sad though, because some of my favorite students had this view that... was just disturbing. One of my co-workers said that he would never do that topic in class... he'd probably get fired because he'd get so angry at the viewpoints discussed. I had a more optimistic outlook on it I suppose.. one that I shouldn't have had. I thought that since most of the class has traveled to other countries, they're educated, and have lived long lives and seen many things.. they wouldn't have the view that was expected. Because the sad thing is, is that many of us (expats in Korea) WOULD expect the views of the employee in the article to be shared with many Koreans. (the bolded phrases below come from things said in class, the non-bolded text were responses from me said during class... the class took place 2 hours ago)

~This is a very special case, it doesn't happen a lot.
-But it DOES happen a lot. As the article says, many aren't reported. This lady luckily speaks Korean and was able to hear what the sauna worker said about her, and the police officer also spoke with the employee and he said them same thing. There are more cases, it's not just this one in Busan. I've experienced some discrimination, others have experienced more.

~Laws will eventually happen... one day... not now.
-I realize that, and the US has been in the exact same position. But worse, 100 times worse. We grew stronger though, and stopped being brain washed.. we were all able to unite, live together, and racism is not as harsh now.. there are laws, not always upheld, but the government and many agencies work hard to minimize racism in the USA. I know it's different here, because Korea was homogeneous for an extremely long time, but the government and the people have been asking foreigners to come to Korea.. the culture strives for multiculturalism now.. as the article says, there are 1.3 million immigrants living in Korea. ONE POINT THREE!

~Foreigners in Public Bath Houses are a problem, many prostitutes.
~This was in Busan, there are many prostitutes in Busan.
~The prostitutes are dirty, it's a problem.
-So all foreigners are prostitutes? The funny thing is that, many MANY Koreans believe this. You say it as a joke, but I know a few foreign women who have been approached by men, asked if they are Russian, or prostitutes, and you know what they're response is? "I TEACH KINDERGARTEN CHILDREN IN YOUR COUNTRY". Is this fair? It gives Koreans a very bad name when this continues to happen. It is a problem all over the country, not just Busan, not just Seoul.

-The employee in the article said the woman would make the water dirty and pass on AIDS to the Koreans. Is this what a majority of people believe? That you can spread AIDS in the water?
~I think she said this to prove a point, to make her point stronger.
~HaHa! AIDS is passed on sexually.
-This makes the employee sound extremely ignorant. And people like this make the entire Korean culture look ignorant. Is that okay?

~The Public Bath Houses need to be separated.
~Just like the men and women are separated, foreigners and Koreans should be separated.
-This lady is a Korean just like any of you, she has a Korean passport. She IS Korean. She wasn't born here, but she's married to a Korean, she has a 7-year old son.. WITH a Korean.
-Where does her son go? Does he go to the Foreign side or the Korean side? Is he dirty because he's 1/2 foreign?
-What will happen to children like this one? Do they have to live the rest of their lives like this?

~I think you need to look at both sides.
-What side am I missing? I realize that when Public Bath Houses began there were hardly any foreigners living in Korea. I also realize that Koreans think they are different from every race on Earth. I understand it must be weird to see people in the Bath House who look different. But this lady is legally Korean, her son is Korean, her husband is Korean.
-What about the Korean men who sleep with all of these prostitutes. Should they have a separate sauna too.. because if the prostitute has a disease, welp, he's going to as well. Should there be separate sections between men who sleep with prostitutes and men who don't?
-I'm sorry, I guess I don't understand.

~Actually, prostitutes do get regular health checks.
-Great sir, I'm glad that you know that. So does this mean that not all foreigners are infected with AIDS?

Conclusion: I'm a foreigner so I must be a prostitute, have AIDS, I'm just plain different, from another planet.... I'm glad I now know the truth, my parents have been lying to me since I was born!!! Laws need to be changed if Korea wants to keep growing to be a powerful nation in the world... things like this can't just 'take time'... people need to start saying, 'No! You're wrong!' and stand up for what they believe in.. then maybe other people's hearts will change in the mean time.

Note: I don't believe ALL Koreans share the same views as in the article. I DO however believe at least 1/2 do, in some way, deep down. I DON'T believe change will happen anytime soon, I think it will continue to be brushed to the side. I have many Korean acquaintances and friends that I know don't believe all foreigners are prostitutes... however I know many that do. So the disturbing facts become surreal...

I can honestly say that last year I wandered around Korea with a veil over my eyes. I ignored most negative qualities, and didn't truly believe many things I had heard about the culture. Now, however .. after working with students who can say more than "Purple, Door, Cookie"... views change... in some ways I wish I had stayed in the dark, I think I'd be happier living here... but if everyone ignores what goes on in the world, society will soon be worse than it already has become!


  1. Korea is prejudiced against waygooks, indeed. But they are an incredibly homogenous culture and are having to learn fast. I think it's great that you challenged them.

    However, as a white American, I don't think it's up to you to say that America is not very racist. I am frequently shocked at how badly black people appear to be treated in the US and I think you should take a long hard look at the economic disparity between white and black Americans and ask yourself why that disparity exists and how your country can move toward remunerating these people.

    Wealth is passed down through families through property, inheritance, parent's education and connections. Your black community has not started from a position of wealth and thus will continue to enjoy the trappings of cyclical poverty.

    I really hope ALL Americans can get behind leveling the playing field.


  2. -I fully understand your points. Black people aren't the only people who lack equality in the States though.... although many think so...

    -The class wasn't about America. I was simply using the US as an example of where we used to be, and where we are now... not perfect, but a step in a better direction in comparison to the past.

    -The only thing mentioned about the States was in regards to laws... which we have... Korea doesn't.