The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Tag: Australia

And classy headline of the day goes to…

MoneyToday, which penned a piece on the tragic death of a young Korean woman in Brisbane under the headline:

“Death of 20-something Woman on Working Holiday. Is It Now ‘Killing Holiday?’”

Well, at least it was better than the New York Post’s front page.

The woman in question, BTW, was accidentally hit by a train.

Interestingly, enough, the Foreign Ministry says there are 34,000 Koreans on working holiday in Australia. Some 5,800 Koreans are in Japan on work holiday visas, and 4,000 in Canada.

MoneyToday warns, however, that unlike Korea, Australia doesn’t have much in the way of nightlife, so when it turns dark, shops close and the streets are deserted, thus crime-prone. In 2012, 99 of 108 crimes committed against Koreans on work holiday took place in Australia. In 2011, 117 out of 121 took place in Australia, as did 99 out of 110 in 2010.

Anyway, I hope Brendan Berne has stocked up on antacid.

So, I take it your Australian work holiday experience was less than satisfactory

The Korea Times dedicated a two-part series to the problems—well, alleged problems—faced by Koreans who participate in the Australia Working Holiday program (HT to Rod).

Two Koreans participating in the program were recently killed in separate incidents.

Anyway, just to give you an idea of what we’re talking about, Kang Tae-ho—who wrote a book critical of the program—complains he was subjected to racist treatment at the hands of his Aussie coworkers:

Working as a janitor in the Working Holiday Program, Kang would often find rolls of toilet paper stuck in china and scores of stickers attached to the floor that he had to clean up.

“I found out that my Australian coworkers put them there to harass me,” said Kang, who stayed in the country from July 2011 to June 2012.

That’s just mean.

Other problems cited were labor exploitation on fruit farms and the temptation for female participants to engage in prostitution due to its legal status and relatively high wages.

In the second report, the Korea Times notes that many participants find it difficult to improve their English because their inability to speak English limits their job opportunities:

But the reality is that participants can hardly land decent jobs which require a good command of English. Their choices are therefore limited to manual jobs in rural farms, menial jobs or working for Korean immigrants which rarely offers an opportunity to improve their English skills.

“I worked at a farm which only hires Koreans. Almost all the colleagues whom I talked with were Koreans so it was hard to improve my English. In fact, we spent most of time working without any conversation,” said a 28-year-old office worker who had been to Australia on a working holiday visa in 2009.

Other issues included exposure to crime due to insufficient knowledge about where they are and exploitation by, ironically enough, ethnic Korean employers.

Brendan Berne, the Charge d’affaires of the Hojustani embassy in Seoul, wasn’t especially pleased with the reports—in a letter to the KT, he says more and more Koreans are participating in the program and participants have shown a high level of satisfaction with it. He concludes:

The feedback we receive from citizens from the other 27 countries who participate in the program is also overwhelmingly positive. Your newspaper is rightly proud of Korea’s impressive achievements. I would ask at the very least that your paper adopt a more balanced approach when reporting on developments in Australia, a close friend of the Republic of Korea.

I wouldn’t blame Berne for being annoyed—some of the recent reporting in the local press has made Australia look almost like something out of a Mad Max movie. Or Detroit on a good day. That can’t make his job any easier.

And in case you were wondering, no, not many Australians come to Korea on the working holiday program. In May 2012, there were only 23 Australians in Korea on working holiday, roughly equivalent—or so I’m told—to the number of Australian bartenders per square kilometer in London. Simultaneously, there were 15,000 Koreans in Australia. In fact, there were only 1,120 people in Korea on working holiday visas, the overwhelming majority of whom from the Evil Island Nation We Dare Not Name (i.e., not Australia. Or Kiwistan). The Korea Herald did manage to find a real live Hojustani in Korea on working holiday, who explained that Korea was not as popular because of a) Australians knew little about the place, b) it didn’t have quite the tourist draw as some other countries, and c) language. I do wonder, though, if perhaps there’s more to it—in 2012, the Canadian ambassador complained that the working holiday program was biased:

Canada requested Thursday that its citizens on the working holiday program in Korea be granted the same benefits their Korean counterparts enjoy in the North American country.

“We have about 5,000 Canadians teaching English in Korea,” David Chatterson, Canadian ambassador to Korea, told The Korea Times, explaining that they were E-2 visa holders and would not be eligible to teach if they were here on the working holiday program.

According to the Canadian Embassy in Seoul, the North American country allows Koreans on working holidays to find work in a broad range of fields, including teaching, while Canadians are not allowed to teach English in Korea.

I have no idea if that alleged bias has since been fixed.

And for what it’s worth, I’ve yet to read press reports of Koreans having a rough time in Canada with the work holiday program. Weird sex cults and cultural “misunderstandings” about corporal punishment, yes, but no bitching about racism. At least none that I can remember, and I’m too lazy to do an archive search.

Murder of Ban Eunji in Brisbane

My sympathies go out to the family and friend of Ban Eunji, the Korean girl brutally murdered in Brisbane, Australia this morning by—it is suspected—an animal out for a thrill kill.

As far as we can tell so far, the attack does not appear to have been racially motivated, although I’m sure that’s of little comfort to anyone involved. It will be recalled that attacks on Koreans in Australia attracted the attention of the Korean press last year.

Well, at least Rudd has a future as a hagwon teacher after the next general election

Hojustani PM Kevin Rudd—a.k.a. the Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Oceania—told a church full of Koreans that Korean would join Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian and Hindi as a priority language in Korean schools:

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced the language would join Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian and Hindi while visiting a Uniting Church in the Sydney and LNP-held seat of Bennelong.

With help from an interpreter, Mr Rudd told the room, largely of Korean background, that the country’s future would be strengthened by Australians being able to speak Asian languages.

“Australia’s future lies so much in Asia so in our schools we now have four priority languages – those Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian and Hindi,” he said.

The “priority language” thing goes back to late last year, when the Australian government decided on a series of initiative to boost ties with Australia’s Asian neighbors.

While he was at the church, he paid a visit to a classroom where local Korean kids study English. Here, the PM was upstaged by 5-year-old Joseph Kim:

Give the PM credit—he handled the whole hagwon thing like a boss. At no time did he lose his cool, which is no mean feat for him. He even had words of encouragement for the young students:

“You keep learning hard and one day I’ll learn Korean,” the Prime Minister, who speaks only Mandarin and a folksy Queensland dialect loosely related to English, promised.

Props to The Age’s Tony Wright for writing the funniest thing I’ve read all week.

And on the Australia front…

Korean-Australians are apparently wondering what all the fuss in the Korean media is all about:

Once my colleague in Seoul alerted me, it didn’t take much digging to find out more, and be invited along to film Korean community leaders in Sydney holding “crisis talks” to decide what to do.

That is to say, what to do about the Korean media coverage, not the attacks themselves.

Because Korean-Australians think the Korean media is making a mountain of a mole-hill: adding a racial element to what are mostly random acts of violence. They want to get an alternative message out: that, despicable though the isolated attacks have been, they’re mostly random not racial.

That Australia is safe for Koreans.

To be fair, the people being talked to have an economic interest in downplaying any problems. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t right.

If this is much ado about nothing, it begs the question—what bone does the Korean media (or at least certain quarters of it) have to pick with Australia? Or is it just an attempt to drum up readership?

(HT to reader)

And in good Korean-related news from Australia…

Well, at least we got a K-pop reference

(HT tor reader)

Dong-A Ilbo on Australian racism

So, the Dong-A Ilbo is running a series entitled, “Australia’s Koreans Are Trembling.”

The first piece is an interview with the poor guy who got his finger cut off during an assault by white teens in Melbourne. You can read the interview (in Korean) on your own, but the point to take away from it is that as bad as the physical trauma was, the psychological trauma might be worse.

The second piece deals with the racism Koreans in Hojustan routinely put up with. This includes:

- One 45-year-old Korean in Sydney got hit with a water balloon thrown from a car by Aussie teens on his way to work in August. The teens laughed and swore at him as they drove off. A 12-year resident of Australia, the man said he always looks behind him when he’s walking about, and that he and his wife run into abuse-hurling teens several times a year. He said seven or eight out of 10 Koreans say they’ve experienced racism.

- Other Korean students or expatriates the reporter met in Australia had experienced various forms of assault on account of being Asian? On 20-year-old girl attending an Australian university said somebody threw an egg at her as she was heading home from the library one night. One 35-year-old Korean expat said if Koreans are talking on the subway, they can hear people saying that Asians are loud. He said they do this only to Asians, even though white people also sometimes talk loudly.

- It’s not easy for Koreans to actively talk about the problem since it would have a major impact on the Korean-oriented tourism and education industries should these experiences become know to other Koreans. A 64-year-old Korean who has lived in Australia for 30 years said if people keep bringing up that there’s not only assaults and muggings, but also racial discrimination, the number of Koreans who come to Australia for tourism or study would decrease. Since this would directly hurt Korean restaurants, Korean supermarkets and Korean schools, everyone keeps quiet about the racism. After the attacks on Indian students in the Melbourne area in 2009, the number of Indian students in Hojustan dropped from around 120,000 to 37,000 this year.

- There are many cases in which assaults go unreported. The head of the Korean association of one Australian university said talk of assaults on Asian students around the university at night is commonplace, but many victims don’t report their assaults because their English is poor, and that most cases go unsolved even when they are reported. One Korean woman on working holiday in Sydney was recently assaulted by three white guys one night. The assailants took her bag and cell phone, and punched her in the face. She reported the attack to the police, but a month went buy without any news. When she emailed the coppers to find out what was happening, she was simply told to wait.

- Hojustani police also think the victims are partially responsibly. One Australian police official told the reporter that Asian students and tourists don’t know the roads very well, don’t know the local laws and suffer from language barriers, and because of this, they become easy targets of crime.

- Some quarters of the Korean community expressed concern that the mob attacks might hold another meaning. One official from a local Korean association said in the two assaults on Koreans in Sydney, they hit the victims with golf clubs when all they needed to do is take his money. He said he’d heard that white folk also suffer muggings in Australia, but he’d never heard news of them falling victim to mob assaults, adding that while it may have disappeared externally, he felt the White Australia policy was still alive in the hearts of some Australians.

There’s apparently another piece coming.

UPDATE: In a related piece in the Dong-A, it appears a 28-year-old woman was assaulted in the Gold Coast late last month by a white guy and two Maori girls, all three presumably teens.

Another Korean attacked in Australia, Yonhap decries gov’t, police response

Another Korean has been attacked in Australia.

According to Yonhap, a 28-year-old working holiday visa-holder by the name of Cho was beaten by two white youths in the Runcorn neighbohood of Brisbane just past midnight on Nov 25.

According to Cho, the kids approached him asking to borrow his photo to call their mother. He lent it to them, but then they tried to make off with it. They then mercilessly beat him around the head with fists and blunt objects, I’m guessing when he tried to stop them.

When they were about to attack him again, Cho screamed and adopted a counterattack posture, and the louts fled in a waiting car.

After getting treated by emergency personnel sent to the scene, Cho went to the police station to file a report.

Hojustani police, however, were insincere throughout their questioning, and even scolded Cho for being out late at night when it was dangerous. Or so Cho said.

Cho added that the cops even said Asians were “stupid” and “silly” for going out at night when it was dangerous.

Cho said the attack could have been racial since the Runcorn area has a lot of Asians, including Chinese.

Cho came to Australia in July of last year on a working holiday visa. He has been learning English while working in a meatpacking plant. There are about 30,000 Koreans on working holiday in Australia.

There’s been a spate of attacks on Koreans in Australia, with a guy in Melbourne getting his finger cut off during an attack by 10 white youths in September and a Korean office worker in Sydney getting attacked by four to five unknown assailants.

Not sure if the protest photo in the Yonhap story is related to the attacks or not. What we do know, though, is Yonhap is not very happy about this all, because they also penned a piece on how the Australian government and police were coming under fire for trying to minimize or cover up the rash of racist crimes targeting Asians and other foreigners in Australia.

According to Yonhap, Hojustani authorities are worried that if these attacks become known internationally, it could have a negative impact on two of Australia’s big three industries—education and tourism. Some are pointing out, however, that attempts to hush up the incidents without presenting fundamental solutions means a solution to the problem is far off.

According to the Australian press and Asian foreign student community on Nov 26, Australia had a tough time after the attacks on Indian students in Melbourne three years ago, with the number of Indian students dropping by 70%, but the situation has yet to improve.

At the time, the Indian government and press slammed the attitude of the Australian cops for being insincere in their investigations, with Australia eventually recalling their ambassador, but the Australian authorities insisted the attacks were mere muggings, not racist attacks.

The same went for the attacks on the Chinese students in Sydney in April. Despite the white attackers using racial insults and mercilessly beating the two Chinese students, the Australian authorities simply called it “an attack that could happen in any country.”

Even pro-Chinese (Yonhap’s words, not mine) Hoju PM Kevin Rudd called it a “teenage crime that could happen in any country.”

The authorities are making the same mistakes with the attack on the Korean in Melbourne. Despite the victim reporting it as a racist attack, Victoria police did not charge the assailants with whatever Hojustan calls “hate crimes.” Instead, they called it a common teenage crime.

Police apologized to the victim and promised to re-investigate when suspicions were raised that the cops didn’t really investigate and inquires were made by Korean diplomats, but police still haven’t departed from their view that the attack was not racial in nature.

In 1995, the Australian government passed the “Racial Hatred Act” making it a crime to disparage people on the basis of race or national origin, but police almost never use it.

In fact, some point out that the law has been rendered powerless, with Victoria police using it to indict three men for attacking an Indian in 2010, only to drop the indictment one year later for doubtful reasons (Yonhap’s words, not mine).

Kim Hyeong-tae (22, fake name), the former vice chairman of the Korean Students Association of the University of Sydney, said among Asian foreign students, there is widespread belief that it’s no use telling the Australian cops that you suffered a racial attack.

An employee of one major Korean company who has suffered racist insults several times during his three years working in Australia said to Australia, which earned notoriety for its past White Australia policies, racial discrimination is a kind of weakness and Achilles’s Heal. Australians are reacting sensitively because this weak spot is being touched, he said.

Marmot’s Hole: OK, Hojustanis, what the hell is going on here? And since when did the Brisbane suburbs become A Clockwork Orange?

PS: Just to show that God does indeed have a sense of humor, MBC—yes, that MBC (and this one)—ran the Yonhap piece on their homepage.

Korean assaulted by white kids in Australia, gets finger cut off

Another racist attack on a Korean in Hojustan. From the Chosun Ilbo:

A Korean man studying in Australia says he lost a finger in a racially motivated attack there and was also abused by local police.

The 33-year-old man, identified only by his last name Jang, reported to the Korean Consulate in Melbourne that he fell victim to a knife attack by a group of teenagers on Nov. 5 while walking through a park near his home with a Korean friend.

He said the teenagers asked him for a cigarette, and when he refused started assaulting him and shouting, “Fucking Chinese.”

And one of them cut off his finger with a knife, Jang said. He said police only arrested one of them and let the others go.

The English version didn’t mention the race of the attackers, which made me wonder. White kids? Vietnamese? Lebanese? Fortunately, the Korean version makes it very clear from the headline—it was a bunch of white kids.

Anyway, Jang felt the local constabulary did not take his case seriously, but since the incident went public, police have pledged to reinvestigate. The Victoria state government has also agreed to pay him damages.

Locals split over plan for ‘Korea Town’ near Syndey

It seems not everybody’s on-board with a plan to turn a Sydney suburb into a Little Korea:

A plan to turn the centre of Strathfield into a “Little Korea”, complete with street scenes and Korean iconography, has divided the community.

Strathfield Council is to carry out a feasibility study into the idea after a report by two academics at the University of Technology, Sydney, said the area could garner a new identity and tourist dollars by adopting the scheme.
[...]
But reaction has been mixed, with councillors and locals split. Michelle Morris, who the Scenemet at the Town Square, says a Korean focus could alienate other cultures.

“It could be a little uninviting,” she says. “There are a lot of diverse cultures in Strathfield, so why are we just facilitating one? It could even draw people away from the area.”

(HT to reader)

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