September 16, 2019
 In Articles

November 9, 2019


FROM: Republic of Korea

SUBJECT: Combatting Racism and Xenophobia

Xenophobia and racism, while both very similar, have distinct differences. Xenophobia is a dislike or hatred of one who is not from your country or nation or region, while racism is a dislike or hatred of someone else who looks different from you specifically, such as a different skin color. Globally, there have been distinct instances of xenophobia and racism, yet they hold the same impact. One instance, for example, is the Holocaust in which all nations recognize as a genocide, or form of extreme racism. Another form of racism is skin whitening.


In South Korea, there is a significant amount of xenophobia targeted towards incoming refugees. Part of the reason there is so much xenophobia and racism is because of the South Korean education system. South Koreans are taught to believe South Korea is a single-blooded nation, or danil minjok. The arrival of the Yemini refugees in the Republic of Korea has also inspired xenophobia, sparking incidents of verbal harassment. 


Racism has also taken the form of beauty standards in South Korea, and other parts of Asia. WHO (World Health Organization) found that around 40% of women in China, Malaysia, the Philippines, and South Korea regularly use whitening products. The Republic of Korea has been heavily influenced by Western nations to the point that the notion of beauty has become one of light skin. Skin whitening, a process of using products to whiten one’s skin to look lighter, is very common in South Korea. This is dangerous due to the health hazards that come with bleaching one’s skin, so to have this as a social norm is a significant issue, that at its root, is heavily linked to racism and white supremacy. As well as being linked to white supremacy, there is a deeply rooted aspect of culture that depicts having white skin with not being in poverty and living a comfortable life. 


Even with all this bigotry, racism, and xenophobia, there is hope for the Republic of Korea. The curriculum was changed in 2007 after the United Nations urged the Republic of Korea to do so. Along with this, interracial marriages have been becoming more prevelant within the country following this new education. The government has started promoting damunhwa, or multiculturalism. The Republic of Korea also often takes in foreign exchange students from all around, letting students interact with Korean citizens and become acquainted with each other and their respective cultures. A solution to skin whitening is educating those buying skin whitening products of the health hazards, including the “highly active and potentially dangerous agents” such as steroids not good for the skin, bleaching chemicals, and chemicals such as mercury and hydroquinone. There are risks of skin cancer when using these products excessively. These are only a few of the many ways to combat xenophobia and racism.

  • Annie Cardinale

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