Go to contents

[Opinion] Is Paris Burning?

Posted November. 08, 2005 07:25,   


Geum Dong-geun, Paris correspondent of Dong-A Ilbo, is a bit short. When he was sent to Paris last year, he brought a tall, eight-year younger reporter as his wife, making other single co-workers envious. Geum was beaten by young rioters when he tried to cover a riot in the slums of the city. The youngsters began to beat him even before he completed his sentence, “I heard that cars were burnt nearby….” He said his heart rather than his body hurt. The recent deaths of African-French youths exploded the immigrants’ outrage against poverty, discrimination, and alienation. And Geum bore the brunt of the outrage in the incident.

Two months ago, when hurricane Katrina revealed the age-old racial issue of the U.S., the French media offered stinging criticism about the U.S.’ failure of social integration. France, which boasts the spirit of liberty, equality and fraternity, does not have population statistics by race. Affirmative action, which the U.S. put in place to provide advantage to ethnic minority, is a taboo in the country because of the “republican value,” which requires all French people be the same citizens regardless of race.

It is paradoxical that the “French model,” which claims to protect its citizens, actually gives other citizens more pain. There are millions of Muslims in the U.S., but the problem of social alienation is less serious than in Europe. That is because the U.S. has a flexible labor market in which people can find a job depending on their ability. By contrast, hiring one person requires a careful consideration in France which has a rigid labor market. This is why people with Arab or African names have a hard time finding a job even with the same resume. Without a job, people have no dream. In an extreme case, people feel hostility against their society. For this reason, a society full of young jobless is dangerous.

Jeremy Rifkin, a leftist scholar, declared the victory of European dream, saying, “There is no American dream.” His argument is that integration of a social community comes before economic development. He cited the resolution of the problem of Arab and African immigrants as the criteria of the success of European dream. However, one would question whether the European model, which turns a blind eye to the immigrants’ reality and dreams, can be considered viable. Burning Paris is showing that social integration without growth and employment is literally ephemeral.

Kim Soon-deok, Editorial writer, yuri@donga.com