Southeast Expats Complain of Discrimination in Seoul

One quarter of Southeast Asians living in Seoul experience discrimination according to poll results that were released by Seoul Development Institute this week.

The survey, which involved 333 expatriates that live throughout the city, found that Southeast Asians experience higher levels of discrimination than expatriates who’s host countries formed the OECD countries.

According to the Seoul Development Institute 25.9% of Southeast Asian respondents responded “yes” when asked if they had ever experienced discrimination in Seoul. This was contrasted with 20.5% from Northeast Asian countries answering yes to the same question. The biggest disparity of all can be observed between the Southeast Asian responses and the responses of expatriates who originally came from OECD countries with just 8.2% of the latter group claiming that they had experienced discrimination.

Theorizing as to the cause of such discrimination Hong Suk-ki, a research fellow at the Seoul Development Institute, argued that the discrimination might emanate from Koreans’ perception of economic differences between the countries over the past several decades. “Foreigners from lesser-developed Southeast Asian countries were seen as ‘freeloaders,” he said.

The Institute projected the number of foreigners residing in Seoul to reach 1 million as early as 2016 and recommended that the city find ways to better accommodate non-Koreans and their families: “People should see others equally, regardless of where they are from, what their skin color is or what their religion is, but we Koreans lack experience in that,” said Kong.

Government data released in 2009 revealed that there were 255,749 registered foreigners in Seoul, with more than 200,000 of these being originally China, Japan, and Taiwan.

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