I can’t let fear hold me back from what I want to do.

I’ve gotten a lot of questions from people regarding how my skin color affects the quality of my life in South Korea. I’ve touched on this question last year when I was pretty new here and my answer reflects my fresh, doe-eyed look on South Korea. It’s now been two official years since I’ve moved here and I think my answer has evolved a bit.

Are you ready for it?

Here’s the sad fact: It happens.

Racism does exist in South Korea, but for the most part, the discriminatory acts I find in Korea have less to do with my skin color and more to do with the fact that I’m not Korean; I would say xenophobic behavior occurs more often in Korea than racism. While the younger generation has become more familiar with people from other countries, there are still some people who have never met a foreigner and harbor some fear regarding them. Sadly, this fear has caused misunderstandings and unfortunate situations for a lot of people. Even though it’s getting better, it is still overwhelming and quite a frustrating thing to experience, especially when you’re navigating life in another place alone. However, even though I find this behavior to be more common, it doesn’t mean racism is non-existant here.

The treatment I get for being black.

Now, a lot of people seem curious to know my experience as a dark-skinned black woman in South Korea. I can’t speak for other black foreigners, but I haven’t experienced much racism here. When it comes to my skin color, most of the inquiries or comments I get come from my students. Sometimes they are rude and say things that are offensive, and I have to inform them what is okay to say and what isn’t; however, for the most part, the questions stem from curiosity and not intentional maliciousness. In addition to children, I have gotten maybe one or two comments from older people, but for the most part, I don’t feel targeted as a black person here. I personally don’t get a lot of heat regarding my skin color.

But let me be clear about one thing, this is just my PERSONAL EXPERIENCE.

I know that some people have had far worse experiences here and that’s their story to tell, but that has not been the case for me. I have met a lot of great, open-minded, kind-hearted people who have helped make my time here enjoyable. It has also allowed me to see myself for who I am instead of what people perceive of me based on the color of my skin. To most, I am just another foreigner and the stereotypes don’t define every aspect of my life. Because of this, I’ve been able to grow into my skin and learn to love myself. I love the person I am becoming here.

Let’s be real:

That being said, I came to Korea with the mindset that as a black person, racism will follow me anywhere I go, and while we are fighting to change that, I can’t let fear hold me back from what I want to do. I just need to find and surround myself with people who see me for who I am, are not bothered by the color of my skin or the fact that I’m different from them. The fact of life is that there are racists everywhere and even though we are fighting for the eradication of it, the sad fact is that it still exists. However, this shouldn’t hold me back from living my life, right? I believe I need to work towards a better future for myself and help pave the road for the people who will come after me. If there is one I’ve learned while living here it is that focusing on the negative experiences or looking for “trouble” as it were will only make those things vivid in my life. Living abroad is already a difficult thing to do, but having a positive attitude will definitely help one through difficult moments.

Let’s Wrap Things Up Now:

Because the black population isn’t as large, I can make my own impressions on the people I meet. For most, I may be the first black person they have ever seen or the first black person they become friends with, which means that I can shape their opinions of other people who are similar to me. I find this knowledge both empowering and humbling.

Like every country, Korea isn’t a perfect country. It still has a long way to go, but it’s on its own journey. While I can’t speak for all foreigners or all Koreans, I hope sharing my experience can help inform others, like me, of life here and what their life could possibly look like if they come here.

Until next time,

See ya around, friend~!

Posted by:ThatKoreanLife

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