This time it’s all about the negative sides and struggles you might have while living in Korea. I gotta be honest here: of course Korea is a great country and has a lot to offer, but there are struggles too. I think these negative sides are not shown often – especially not on Social Media.
Sadly, racism and discrimination is a thing that exist everywhere in the world, also in Korea. Luckily I haven’t experienced harsh racism towards me here so far, but it definitely exist a subtle everyday-discrimination here, which is more or less feel-able. I’ll list some examples.
- The “Foreigner Seat”
Taking the subway is an everyday-thing, but sometimes it can happen that nobody wants to sit next to you, even though the subway is packed. I think maybe it’s because they’re afraid of you spontaneously talking to them in English (but who does that?) and they’re embarrassed not be able to answer. Still not a bad thing all in all, but feels weird I have to admit.
- The Itaewon Outbreak
Corona is holding the world on pause and although Korea is doing great compared with other countries regarding that matter, we had some bigger outbreaks of course, too. One of them was in the famous international district of Seoul, called Itaewon. There are plenty of bars, restaurants and cafes – before Covid it was the nightlife district. In late April/May a bigger outbreak happened in the nightlife scene there and since then Itaewon is a ghost town, because a lot of people are still avoiding this area. Even after months of the incident! Sidenote: the biggest outbreaks still came from churches and people are not avoiding those – additional: when the Itaewon case happened, not even a lot of foreigners were in involved in the first place.
Linked to the Itaewon case, I had a lot of (foreign) English teaching friends, whose companies insisted that they get a Corona-Test – even if they haven’t even been to Itaewon during that happening in the first place. One friend even had to stay in a 1 week quarantine at home although her test came out negative (she hasn’t even been to Itaewon). Another friend, who lives outside of Seoul, had to sign a contract that she’s not going to Seoul the next weeks. This only applied to the foreign teachers at that time though. I was shocked, to say at least.
- During the Itaewon-Outbreak
Another thing I saw happening during that time was that some cafes restricted foreigners to enter. Yes, literally signs hanging inside stores telling foreigners to stay outside. Luckily, this happened only for a short amount of time and I only saw it in person once, but a lot of “Foreigners living in Korea”-Facebook Groups blew up with stories from all over Korea similar to that during this time period. Sad, but true.
Being a foreigner (living) in Korea, you belong to the 3,5% of the population. Nowadays, especially with Covid19 going on, even less foreigners are here, because tourism is restricted at the moment and only long-term visa holders are able to be in the country right now. Sometimes I won’t see any other foreigners for days. So of course you get a lot of attention, especially if you look different (skin color, hair color, eye color etc.). People tend to literally stare at you (luckily most of the time not in a negative way) – but get prepared for that unasked attention.
3. Foreigner’s reputation
Depending where you’re coming from, there exist a lot of stereotypes about different countries. Foreigners are believed to party a lot, be loud, rude and are very open to have sex with. So a lot of the time you have to stand up against those stereotypes, just because you look foreign.
4. Official Websites, Paperwork, Immigration Office
Let me tell you, the biggest struggles I had was always when I had to get official papers or go to an official office. Most of the websites are only in Korean and won’t work on every device (e.g. Apple/Mac won’t work most of the time). Even if it’s a website targeted to foreigners in Korea, you won’t be able to fully understand it unless you can read/speak Korean or have a friend that can help you. If you go to the community center in your district, they won’t speak English a lot of the time as well. Additional to that, a lot of the times the paper work here is very complicated and follows strict rules.
For example when I wanted to change my residential address, I had to go to my local community center. Usually if you change your address you have to show them your housing contract – since I live in an Air Bnb I only had a confirmation and also a signed paper from my host. Still, this wasn’t enough ‘proof’ of me living there. After I went there twice and begged them to call my host to speak to him, they finally changed my address. A simple task that was made way more complicated and stressful for my liking, haha.
Have you lived in Korea and experienced some of these struggles? Let me know in the comments!