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Blade of hatred

Posted February. 03, 2020 07:56,   

Updated February. 03, 2020 07:56


“Hatred only grows when it is justified and let free.”

- “Kind Bigot” by Kim Ji-hye

I travelled Europe for the first time as a college student. It was a smooth trip overall, but I cannot forget the racism I faced on the trip. I have heard of more extreme cases, but it is not everyday that you get shouted at by strangers on a night street. I remember walking alone on the street when a man shouted at me “Go back to China.” I still do not understand why he said those words, but there might have been a reason for such racial abuse. He might have had a bad day or had unpleasant experience with China. Thinking back, I did not have to take his words personally. After all, I am not Chinese, and I knew not everyone in Europe was like him. However, they still hurt and left me in shock because it was the first time I learned that, in a foreign country, I could be perceived as “Chinese” or “Asian,” not as an individual, and my existence could offend someone.

It appears that the novel coronavirus fears are fueling hostility towards Chinese people. There are articles about how low food hygiene standards are in Daerim-dong, Seoul, which has a large Chinese population. For them, the fact that Chinese people who reside in Daerim have not recently been to China does not matter. Their argument goes, it is grounded in fear of the virus and concerns over public safety. However, worrying about and preventing the spread of the infection is one thing, and spreading hatred is another. Their racism reminds me of the man who threw a stone and shouted at me. He must have had reasons that justified his hatred.

Eun-Taek Lee nabi@donga.com