This article pretty much says (with the exception of a little half-assed caveat at the end contradicting the rest of the article’s message) that the higher incidences of murder and rape in Yeongdeungpo and Guro can be explained, according to “experts,” by the increased presence of “foreigners” in those areas.
- that these are relatively poorer areas.
- that poverty and lower education go hand in hand, and both go hand in hand with more violent crime.
- that these neighborhoods are (like most neighborhoods in Korea) saturated with places to get shitfaced drunk, in a cultural setting where getting drunk is seen as an excuse for bad behaviour.
- that rampant, prevalent sexism pervades that same social context, facilitating probably far more sex crimes (again, primarily between Koreans) than ever get reported.
- that there aren’t anywhere near enough foreigners around to be committing all the crimes that took place in these areas to begin with, unless we’re talking professional, freelance psychopaths-for-hire who do rape-and-murder as a kind of full-time job (with overtime) and manage to remain at large to long enough to carry out this campaign of violence to the degree necessary to be reflected in the statistics.
No, no, I’ll just point you at one thing: the fact that non-Koreans in Korea actually have a lower rate of crime than Koreans across the board. Matt Van Volkenberg has an article up about one example, specific to sex crimes. In that case, the difference is about 5 times less sex crime among non-Koreans in Korea. (Or 6.6 time lower, if you adjust for demographics, since old people and little kids tend not to commit sex crimes anyway.)
Of course, the article is weasely: it cites “experts” but doesn’t mention any by name, and doesn’t get into specifics of any kind. Oh, but it does say it’s not really realistic to say it’s totally the fault of foreigners in these areas.
I’ll say. If there were any influence from foreigners on Koreans in terms of crime, it’d be a reduction in incidence. Which we’re not seeing. Crime is slowly rising among Koreans, and rapidly (in the past few years) rising among non-Koreans in Kore, as was discussed on ROK Drop a while back.
And given my experience over the past few years, there’s a few questions to ask about this:
- Demographically, “foreigners” is arguably a term too broad to be really meaningful. Are the “foreigners” being reported for “major crimes” hakwon teachers? Are they Southeast Asian migrant workers? Are they university professors? This is not quite to argue that racial profiling should be applied, but rather that the term “foreigner” lumps together people living and working in very different circumstances — and also denotes different likelihoods of their actions being reported, and/or being given a fair hearing, by law enforcement officials or the justice system. Thus, while I hate the dichotomy for “types of foreigners” in Korean popular culture — the “foreigner” (white, or other, Westerner), “migrant worker” (for non-Western laborers, often South/Southeast Asian but also Chinese), “mail order bride,” and “gyopo” (“foreign” ethnic Korean) – it might be useful to apply this system of categorization on the statistics to shed some light on some of these questions above.
- “Major crime” is similarly ambiguous: if a Filipina mail-order bride kidnaps her half-Korean kid from an abusive father, is that a major crime? What about if a white Canadian university professor (someone like me) happens to be on the subway when some drunken or psychotic lunaticis out to start a fight, and the witnesses claim whitey started it. And that’s to say nothing of the conditions and treatment many “migrant workers” face in Korea — if a boss hits a worker every day for a year, and the worker turns around and punches the boss in the face, who’s the one committing the crime again?
- Are the standards the same for Koreans and non-Koreans accused of a crime? (Anyone who really wonders, er… well, I’d love to see stats, but till I do, I’m willing to believe the anecdotal evidence that no, the standards and handling of complaints is not the same; however, I’ll add that from news reports I’ve read, the same seems to be true for underprivileged Koreans: they get the short end of the stick when it comes to law enforcement doing its job, or getting a fair hearing.)
- In violent altercations between Koreans and foreigners, in how many cases is it decided that the foreigner was responsible for the altercation? This would skew the results significantly, and the number of times I’ve heard stories of (or experienced) Korean men attempting to initiate a violent confrontation without provocation leads me to suspect a number of cases involving both Koreans and non-Koreans would (a) be blamed on the non-Koreans, and (b) skew the demographics.
This last point is very important. Given the much higher incidence of crime among Koreans, one wonders rather what the statistics for violent crime committed by Koreans against foreigners (or vice versa) look like, versus how many crimes transpire as Korean-on-Korean, or foreigner-on-foreigner. One also wonders how many assaults by Koreans on foreigners, or vice versa, go unreported. Of course we cannot know that, but it’d be interesting if research were done on the subject.
And may I tender a really radical idea:
Might not the flow of influence be moving in the other direction? That is: might it not make more sense to argue that foreign people, having moved to Korea, are adapting to their new setting and changing in their attitudes and behaviour to match the Korean norms? What if, as they acclimate to living in Korea, non-Koreans become accustomed to the higher rates of violent crime (for example, the more-than-occasional sight of men beating up one another, or women, in the street on weekends), non-Koreans are beginning to be influenced by their environment into lower respect for the law, into laxer attitudes about violence and crime? This seems like a much more realistic deduction, if you ask me.
Anyway… I know, the Seoul Shinmun is a rag, but there are articles in other papers that accuse non-Koreans of the same things. The ROK Drop like above discussed a link in the Korea Times, which is a paper that presumably counts Westerners in Korea as a sizeable proportion of its subscribers. (Not the biggest, but a sizeable proportion.)
But you know, at the point I’m at, I’m no longer wondering what the NHRC is doing about this. It doesn’t matter because until “journalists” like this can’t spew this kind of crap anymore — until newspapers are developed to the point where shitty, poorly-written, research-free, racist articles like this can’t get into print because they’re garbage — there’s no point. Even the commenters on that article who are pointing out it’s hogwash can’t change the newspaper’s standards.
The game has to change, and I’m very curious to see how that happened in the West. Not long ago we were publishing very racist crap in our daily newspapers too. While some garbage still gets into print, I’d like to think we’ve moved beyond the racist caricatures and hate-mongering articles that still seem commonplace in the Korean newsmedia. (Though, then again, I’m thinking of Canada, where the right-wing newsmedia I remember was nothing like so backwards as what we see on Fox News.)
So, then, how did our newsmedia change? How did it get forced to acquire a modicum of respect and responsibility, of greater respect for human rights and diversity? I’d like to know, but I’m afraid the answer is that it relied on a deep cultural change that, in Korea, just has not quite been brewing long enough to come into effect for another, well, what? Decade or two?
I guess I have some reading to do, if I want to know more about the reformation of the newsmedia in the West, and have some ideas about pressure points that might work in reforming the Korean media. Hmmmmmm. If anyone has ideas of where to start, gimme a holler.