Seoul - Post Report Question and Answers

Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes. Koreans, especially in smaller towns/outside of Seoul, do not have a lot of interactions with black people. I have heard stories ranging from rude comments to staring and pointing. If you have kids, people will want to touch them and take their picture. They might even come up and pick them up without asking (usually older women do this and mean well. They often say "it's ok I'm a grandma") - Feb 2020

Korea is a racially homogenous country and people who look different will get stared at. The problem isn't as bad as it used to be but it still happens. I am a black woman and I had lots of questions about my hair and people assuming I was from Africa (or the Phillipines?). Some of my friends who taught English reported that job adds stated they only wanted 'white American' applicants. My personal experience- I didn't really have any problems like that. If I went in a small town, people were curious but they weren't rude to me. Gender roles are complicated here...on paper women and men are equal but that is not really the case. - Feb 2016

Not that I have encountered. - Feb 2016

Yes. Koreans are very nationalistic, sometimes to the point where they think they are completely pure. There is an obvious disdain towards Japan and other Asian countries. People of color usually get the "Africa, Africa" comments even if they are not from Africa. Also, be mindful that some groups in Korea are very religious and will often try to convert you to their beliefs. - Jul 2015

I've heard that there are issues with Koreans being very prejudiced, but did not see this personally. - Jan 2014

Only if you're Korean yourself. Otherwise, no issues. - Sep 2013

Yes. Those who say otherwise have probably not experienced it first-hand. There have been several instances when people have physically moved away from us on the subway and made no secret about not wanting to sit near us. Another African-American friend has experienced the same thing. Once when we were eating at a restaurant with a group of friends, a man approached us and we did our best to have a conversation with him in Korean. Afterwards he said, "I never liked black people, but now I do since I met you."(I am sure that in his mind, he thought this was a compliment.)This isolated incident certainly does not represent the majority of the population in Korea, and it did not define our whole experience. However, it was disappointing to experience this sort of thing in such a large city that has seen its fair share of expats. Other common prejudices include shop keepers and market people ignoring "foreigners" -- even when you speak to them in Korean. Again, the majority of shop keepers and market people will not do this, but it has happened to me often enough that it is worth noting. - Jan 2011

This is not a very religious country. Koreans deal ok with other races in general. They had put up with the US military for 60 years. - Dec 2010

Koreans are very much about outward appearances and will discuss one's appearance very candidly, which can be refreshing. However, xenophobia, while diminishing as Seoul becomes more transient, is still pervasive. Non-Koreans are often addressed as "foreign person". - Sep 2009

Religiously tolerant society. - Jul 2008

Not too much. Seoul is a tolerant city. There are mosques, churches and Buddhist temples here and expats of all colours. That said, this is not the most multi-ethnic city in Asia. - May 2008

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