Update (31 March 2017): Matt over at Gusts of Popular Feeling of course beat me to the punch on this, though I didn’t see his post until just now. His numbers are different from mine: he remembers to include numbers for U.S. servicemen (which I didn’t: they’re probably about 20,000 in the Seoul area, but that’s an estimate he gives, and makes a marginal difference), and he’s using a different source and criteria for tourist data (I went with all Europeans, Oceanians, and Canadians/Americans, since Koreans tend to assume anyone white is “American.”)
Despite these differences, Sim’s argument still looks ridiculous. But Matt also digs a little more into the exoticization of Western women in Korean culture (and how it , and the history of the whole moral panic over white (and black, and foreign in general) male sexuality in Korea as well, tracing a thread through bad news reportage, sexploitation films, and more, all of which—even if you’re already convinced Sim is peddling rubbish—provides context on the genealogy of these ideas, which makes his post worth the read.
Original Post: Apparently, you can be an expert on sexual violence in Korea, a graduate of Harvard and a D.Phil candidate at Oxford, while being either completely innumerate, surprisingly bigoted, or just plain too lazy to look up the data… or maybe all three of those things at once.
What am I talking about? I’m talking about an article titled, Who Gets Sick From Yellow Fever? What Carceral Feminism Does Not See, by Oxford Internet Institute D.Phil candidate Kate Sim:
This article was published not long ago, and is a pretty good example of the kind of xenophobic nonsense I’ve long since gotten used to hearing, while living in Korea… but maybe it’ll give someone some talking points in terms of refuting this nonsense if I address it here. Make no mistake, what Kate Sim argues here is wholly xenophobic, racist, and insulting both to Korean women and to white men living in Korea.
But mainly, it’s just fuzzy-headed nonsense. I’m going to take a moment to unpack the demographics that Sim is ignoring, and show why they demonstrate how nonsensical her claims are.
The heart of Sim’s bizarre, nonsensical claim is here (emphasis mine):
And if you find it shocking that I’m recommending a piece in Groove Magazine—a free expat rag in Seoul—over something by a D.Phil student at Oxford, well… yeah, I’m surprised at that myself. I guess it’s not a very good advertisement for Sim, or for the program that accepted her as a student.
For the same reason that my students were willing to approach me for help when in suicidal crisis over the years: because I wasn’t perceived as being inside the social network, the cost of talking about such things with me was lower, and so was their perceived risk of social repercussions.↩
Indeed, not just foreign women: I’ve been sexually harassed by Korean men myself—no violence, thank goodness—and at least two Western men I know had experiences that would, by Canadian or American law, be considered sexual assault perpetrated by a Korean man.↩