The video has spread fairly quickly. Facebook is telling me it reached 52,300 people since I uploaded it Wednesday evening. Going on Facebook, I noticed MBC is being recognized as a trending topic. I’ve seen people sporting anti-MBC logos for their profile pictures. A group was set up that now boasts 5000 members, and people are wondering the next course of action.
Indeed, the next course of action.
Like it or not, this issue is now in the spotlight with Koreans and foreigners alike.The next course of action must not be one that divides us any further. Doing so plays into the hands of those who produced the video in the first place. Rather than focus on the negatives of all this, perhaps we should strive on the positives and build upon that.
Going through the hundreds of comments this thing has spawned has been very time-consuming. On both sides of the debate, there are heaping mounds of immaturity. Yes, it is true some Korean men are guilty of the actions complained about in the video. But to use that, continuously, as the basic come-back response to the video is counter-productive. Slagging on Korea, or Koreans, will not change public sentiment. Yes, it’s incredibly easy, and satisfying, to vent your frustrations but you’re shooting yourselves in the foot. It is also deeply offensive to those of us, like myself, who have a great deal of Korean friends, both male and female.
Rather than point out the evils of Korean men, consider highlighting the success stories of Korean-foreigner relationships. Why is this important? Because it’s a direct riposte to the narrative of MBC’s video. This is a meaningful way of proving MBC wrong, while remaining unprovocative. I see this is starting to be done through the FB protest group, and Groove Korea has set up a photo-collage initiative. Some of my fellow YouTubers could probably make use of their channels to help spread the stories. You’d be surprised how easily such initiatives can take off, and how eager the general public is to hear positive stories of foreigners.
Now, there are those who would say such efforts are futile, and trying to scrub society of xenophobia is a waste of time. There are also those who claim we English teachers have it pretty good in Korea and should shut up and stop complaining. To those people, I suggest you take a step back and observe the larger picture. This isn’t just about those of us on E2 visas who feel slighted over a video. Anti-foreign sentiment affects a lot more people than the English teachers in Korea. It hurts my friends, who are in healthy multi-cultural marriages, and their children. It hurts my students who are consistently bullied and mocked for not being 100% Korean. It hurts the university students who come here to study, as well as their families who sometimes join them. Stigmatizing the foreign element in Korea is an action that should no longer be tolerated, no matter who it is directed at. Sure, you may not be willing to speak out when it’s a whiny bunch of English-teaching fratboys who are complaining. But will you also remain apathetic towards the young kids who silently suffer because they have no voice of their own?
Netizens talking trash about Americans in Itaewon, and foreigners talking trash about Korean men, are both barking up the same tree. The negativity on both sides is clouding the issue and feeding the flames. Foreigners, be the change you want to see in Korean society. Don’t use the actions of Korean men to justify your counter-arguments. The Korean public can just as easily read your comments, and you won’t be gaining any sympathy. Focus on the positives achieved when foreigners and Koreans work together. There are many examples to draw inspiration from.