Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Western Ex-Pats Abuse Korean Woman...

... Asian Men At Fault.....

The 8Asians blog posted this commentary on some news out of Korea in which a couple of western (i.e.white) ex-pats in Seoul  take a video of themselves man-handling and abusing a Korean woman at a night club. The post links to a Washington Post report on the incident that, although ostensibly sympathetic to the Korean woman, turns out to be an apologetic, of sorts, for western racial attitudes towards Asians in general and for these abusive ex-pats in particular.

Let's look at the apparent facts of the incident first of all. According to the evidence of the video, a couple of western ex-pats have approached the girl, begin manhandling her in an extremely demeaning way, invading her personal space, touching her in disrespectful ways, mocking her, and eventually, when she decides to move away from them, they hurl verbal abuse after her.

The first few paragraphs of the WaPo article - written by a guy named Max Fisher - are extremely sympathetic to the girl, displaying some outrage at the treatment she has received. ......
what [the video] shows is so disturbing, so charged with deeply sensitive issues of gender and race....... it’s clear that the young Korean woman in the frame is in trouble.......They begin by describing her body, talking as if she weren’t there. One of the men pulls back her hair to show her chest to the camera. By 14 seconds in, it’s already clear she’s afraid, and she tries to wave them off as the first man puts his hand on her chin to push her face up.......as if bored with merely harassing her, they grow more sadistic. The first man sticks his finger up her nose. She pulls back to resist but he leans in and shouts, “I see a booger.” His friend eggs him on — “Dude, make her eat it,” he says — and the two burst into laughter when he shoves his finger, now smeared with snot, into the back of her throat. They tell her she’s disgusting. When one of them discovers some discoloration on her teeth, pulling her lips back to show to the camera, he starts shoving her, punishing her for displeasing him. He shouts at her to get plastic surgery, “like every other little Korean [girl].”....At first, when she tries to resist, he won’t let her go. But, after several thrashes, she’s able to pull herself away, clearly rattled, and walk off. They shout angrily after her, hurling insults, and the video ends.
My first thought was that these guys need to work on their game. My second thought was that the writer of the article seems to really capture the gender, cultural, and racial dynamic of the scene in his description. I will admit that I was looking forward to reading a non-Asian writer explore some of the issues of the race and gender issues of the Asian experience that are rarely mentioned in the mainstream. Instead, what I read seemed like a whitewash.

Starting at the sixth paragraph.....
[the video] had attracted over 24,000 views in its short life on YouTube, once the video was gone, discussion around it largely ended. One month later, on July 8, it was posted again, this time to Facebook. It is still up, having generated more than 800 comments, mostly in Korean, and it’s been shared 251 times. Outrage against the two Western men (it’s not quite clear where they’re from) has grown so fierce on the Korean Web that it’s been covered in several Korean outlets.
Thus begins the shift of focus away from the main issue of the video - ex-pats engaging in sexist and arguably racist behaviour towards a Korean woman - and onto the reaction of the Koreans (and ultimately Korean culture and attitudes) who are outraged by the video.

The next paragraph assures us that this is the right way to go.......
Western expats have been in Seoul for years. As in other Asian cities, these expat communities can have their bad apples, typically young men who misbehave, either because it’s in their nature, because they think they can get away with things in Asia that would never be tolerated at home, or both. I sent the video to several Westerners who have spent time in Korea among other expats; they all said that while this is an extreme and highly unusual case, it’s not so uncommon in Seoul to see young Western men drinking heavily and shouting after local women.
There you have it. The excessively abusive ex-pats are an unusual case - according to other ex-pats, so it must be true - which is convenient, because now the article can move move full-force into whitewashing the incident and complete the shifting of focus onto the sexist pathologies of Korean culture. Let's not even bother to explore the dynamic of race and sex that is evident in the video.
The stories about hard-partying disrespectful young Westerners surely don’t represent all expats in South Korea, but they do represent the fears of a foreign invasion. Keep in mind that the United States stations tens of thousands of troops on Korean soil .....The sense of national victimhood is real, even if the threat posed by 20-something English teachers from California or Australia is exaggerated...
Forget the sadistic ex-pats, the real problem is Korean xenophobia, driven by a sense of national victimhood - whatever underlying Western attitudes and cultural influences that promote "disrespectful" behaviour amongst ex-pats towards Asian people just isn't going to  be discussed.

The whitewash continues....
In 2012, the Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation, a South Korean state broadcaster somewhat akin to PBS or the BBC,released an expose-style report documenting the “shocking reality about relationships with foreigners.” Embedded below, it portrays Korean women as the victims of Western men who exploit their good-natured innocence, sleeping with them, disrespecting their culture, stealing from them and, in two cases the video makes much of, leaving them pregnant or with HIV. The subtext is loud and clear: Western men are a threat to our women.
The real underlying issue - again ignoring the very real sexist and racist behaviour of the ex-pats - is that Koreans are just plain racist! That is why they are so outraged - not because of any genuine sense of (justified) outrage at the specific incident in question.
More subtly, and not intentionally, it also shows the degree to which those Koreans see their country’s women in much the same way as do the misbehaving Western expats. Notice that they don’t have any agency in the report’s telling. At best, they’re too innocent to make responsible choices; at worst, too irresponsible to understand that they should avoid Western men.
The outrage is hypocritical because the Koreans are sexist too! Another excuse to avoid exploring in greater depth the sexist and racist behaviour of the ex-pats in the video - but not really true. If you take a few minutes to actually watch the video that the above comment refers to - it is embedded in the WaPo article - you will notice that aside from the obvious sensationalism, it does, in fact, reveal some behaviours amongst Korean women that we - even in the enlightened west - would find troublesome.

For example, one Korean woman allows herself to be picked up by a random white dude in the space of a few seconds as she waits for a cab, which is extremely irresponsible (for safety reasons alone) to say the least and a very poor choice. If a white woman were to do this in America, she would be called a slut and shamed on Facebook.

But the real problem with this point is that relationships between the races do have unique obstacles. If you add cultural differences, language issues, as well as gender issues, then being as casual as some of the Korean women in the video seem to be, can almost definitely be described as irresponsible, and even bordering on damagingly innocent. It has long been considered detrimental to any hopes of longevity in a relationship, if the relationship begins with a one-night stand, if you throw in the unique issues that often arise out inter-racial and inter-cultural relationships, then starting these relationships with casual sex is definitely a lousy idea if you are a Korean woman.

Innocence is a key word here. Let's remember that "pick-up" culture and the culture of casual sex are Western - and mostly American - cultural innovations, and it is interesting to note that this culture has often been taken overseas by the GI. Having lived in both the UK and Germany, I can say with some degree of certainty that the culture of casual sex has in the past met with some degree of hostility from the local population - that is, until the local dudes got into the game. Of course, the difference is that there was no equivalent American cultural phenomenon of racism towards the men of these countries that exists towards Koreans and other Asian men - so a culture exists that seeks to specifically exclude Asian men from the game.

But the point is, that the translation of culture from one society to another often loses some nuance. For women in America, casual sex reflects decades of feminist advocacy whereby women assert absolute control over their own bodies such that the choices that they make about  their bodies are not beholden to social restrictions or the sensibilities of men. It may be the case that this is what the culture of casual sex with western ex-pats represents for Korean women, but given that there doesn't seem to be an equally robust culture of woman driven female empowerment in areas outside of casual sex with westerners, it might be safe to assume that such a culture doesn't exist, and some Korean women may well have missed out on the nuance of female empowerment in relation to casual sex.

So, yes, there is good reason to be concerned that the behaviours exhibited by Korean women in the video are detrimental and irresponsible and good reason to wonder if they have an easily taken advantage of innocence about the casual-sex culture that some have bought into.

And finally.....
South Korea has the widest gender gap in the developed world, according to an annual study by the World Economic Forum, which found that women have less equality in South Korea than they do in India, Burkina Faso or the United Arab Emirates.........Some Korean women, frustrated by their country’s restrictive gender culture, can see Western men as a gateway to a world where they’re treated more equally.
There you have it. Yes, the Korean woman was getting abused by ex-pats, but the real issue here is the racist and sexist Korean culture which creates the environment that drives Korean women to pursue Western men regardless of how abusive they are.

The real issue is the ease with which the the WaPo article dismisses the idea of "disrespectful" Western ex-pats as uncommon - thanks to the testimony of other ex-pats! Of course, shouting at Korean women is more usual, but somehow not disrespectful. What is missing here is any awareness that western culture has assumed a default position of disrespect towards Asians and their cultures. Disrespect - at the best of times - defines the manner of the representation of Asian people in American (and other western ) culture. This is a fact as plain as the nose on your face.

As I've stated many times previously, American kids are brought up acting as though mocking Asian racial characteristics and ways of speech are normal - all against a background of cultural depictions that suggests an appropriateness to casual violence against Asians. This hints at a pretty strong indication of how normalized and ingrained is the culture of disrespect for Asians. Disrespect towards Asian people and cultures is as ingrained into American culture as deeply as love of the flag, as the commonality of childhood expressions of anti-Asian prejudice reveals.

That may help to explain the WaPo's article's inability to maintain a train of reasoning that faults western people who abuse Asians. My guess is that there is such strong conditioning in America to deflect issues of anti-Asian prejudice back onto Asians themselves that the article could be a sophisticated gut reaction. Or it could be that the awareness is just not there, and most likely a combination of both.  Even the fact that violence against women occurs at a higher incidence in America than it does in Korea - a fact that could help to explain the behaviour of these ex-pats - goes unexplored.

Most disappointingly, for me, is that the 8Asians post doesn't raise these questions either - it seems obvious to me, at least, as someone who has experienced the pervasive culture of disrespect towards Asians, that a video showing Westerners harassing a Korean woman in a manner that has racial undertones, that the actions of the ex-pats in the video warrants some exploration in the context of western attitudes towards Asians? Perhaps it is just easier - even for Asians - to avoid criticism of anti-Asian attitudes and deflect criticism back on our own cultures.

10 comments:

  1. Hi I am thelastknownsurvivor. I am also the man in this video. I have been trying to prove that this video is not real for the last week. Here is an article where I did a face to face interview.

    http://www.rjkoehler.com/2013/07/24/public-statement-to-max-fisher-regarding-video/

    Here is another article where I got John Power from the Korea herald in contact with other people involved in the making of the video.

    http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20130723000781

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous

      Welcome and thanks for the comment and links. I had heard before I wrote my post that the video might be a fake. I'm open to this - it could be real or not, I await confirmation!

      Either way, the authenticity of the video is actually of little importance to my post - my focus was the WaPo's seeming whitewash of the incident, and the way that deflecting responsibility for any potentially racially abuse of Asian people focus back onto Asians themselves seems to be a common response of non-Asian commentators whenever there is a hint of anti-Asian abuse by white folks.

      That remains a fact of the WaPo article regardless of the authenticity of the video - in fact, I specifically witheld judgement on the contents of the video precisely because its authenticity may be questionable.




      Delete
  2. I would rather have a poverty hitting low without offering any US marine to base in my country rather than having GI exploiting local women, frequently causing fatherless child, while those other expats are taking advantages of commonplace happy-ending services.

    Besides, to Anonymous above, let's just say you're just a part of prolonging the "whitewash" attitude. Coming here as "Anonymous" and claim you're one of the retards in the video? yeah...that will do the trick. The link you posted, I've read thousands times.

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    Replies
    1. Bint - while you are considering your plight as an impoverished Asian under the exploitative hands of whitey, maybe you should clean up your use of abusive language - that is, if you want anyone to take your comments seriously. "Retard" is a slur that has no place in an astute person's vocabulary. It implies a lack of intelligence, but was taken from a diagnostic vocabulary used to describe those with develpmental delays. If you mean to call someone stupid, just say "stupid" instead of hurting so many innocent people who were born with intellectual disabilities.

      Delete
    2. " if you want anyone to take your comments seriously. "Retard" is a slur that has no place in an astute person's vocabulary."

      tell me another story "Anonymous" to take you seriously.

      Delete
    3. AnonymousJuly 30, 2013 at 11:48 PM

      youre stupid, and you have a severe lack of intelligence. And if youre not Asian, then you are one pathetic motherfucking useless piece of over-privleged white shit knuckledragging hairy armed gormless neanderthal fuck-wit yankee piece of shit ape that if you ever touch another Korean woman like you and your buddies pertained to do in the video, you better watch your back.

      Hope that insult was clear, by the way. Let me know if you need more clarification.

      Delete
  3. Ah, yes! Much more to the point, although not particularly creative, Indieking. I think you meant "pretend" - not "pertained". We can wait while you find a dictionary. It's your assumptions that have tripped you up. Isn't it always? The most glaring being the assumption that Anonymous #1 and Anonymous #2 are one and the same person in this thread.Virtually every insult you have hurled in my direction would prove itself to be based on faulty assumptions, although I am a bit of a fuck wit. However, it's more like - Fuck wit me, and let's see what you swingin, home boweee! Well, your response is to be expected, I suppose. The very people who are calling for everyone to stop making stereotypical assumptions - like assuming that Asians are brainy, disempowered asexual nerds, assuming that Asian women are submissive, assuming that Asian parents are domineering - are often the very people that live without considering their own assumptions about others. And thanks, Bink! You validated my point for me by totally failing to deal with the substantive point I made about your use of an offensive slur. Not even an apology. Congratulations, Mr. Legend! What a classy coterie of intellectuals you have assembled for yourself here! And you, Ben - long-winded to champion our Asian brothers and sisters, but nothing to say on behalf of the "retards? Quel dommage!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous

      I don't claim to be champion of anything or anyone. My sole aim is to bring to the dialogue aspects of the Asian-American experience that most are reluctant to approach.

      So I appreciate you challenging any presumptions - it raises the level of the dialogue and any arguments therein. Just don't make any of your own in the process since it dilutes the credibility of your arguments.

      Delete
    2. @ anonymous fuckwit

      No, i meant 'pertained', as in alluded to. So did you happen to arrive on an Asian activist blog to attempt fix people's english grammar? haha . keep talking to the hand

      Delete
  4. 1. "while you are considering your plight as an impoverished Asian under the exploitative hands of whitey, maybe you should clean up your use of abusive language"

    Is this your assumption?

    2. ""Retard" is a slur that has no place in an astute person's vocabulary. It implies a lack of intelligence, but was taken from a diagnostic vocabulary used to describe those with develpmental delays. If you mean to call someone stupid, just say "stupid" instead of hurting so many innocent people who were born with intellectual disabilities."

    So you're a champion for people with intellectual disabilities and will fight for it while picking nose at the innocent Korean lady and have her eat it? Tell me another story...wait, not a story... but a joke will do fine.

    3. "And thanks, Bink! You validated my point for me by totally failing to deal with the substantive point I made about your use of an offensive slur."

    Should I wait while you're getting a Dictionary? Wait, not a dictionary, just a intellectual disabilities to read someone else nickname on blogs! Anyway, Mr. Anonymous, where did I validate your point by failing to deal with your SUBSTANTIVE point? Is that your substantive point is what I mentioned in No.2? Go and read carefully, if you need time, just don't read, I wrote clearly for your PERUSAL.

    4. "Not even an apology. Congratulations, Mr. Legend! What a classy coterie of intellectuals you have assembled for yourself here!"

    What should I apologize? Am I one who picked booger from the lady's nose or Am I the one who dehumanized the "innocent" lady who for no reason because of her financial situation and opportunities available at the place chose a career in that service area? Picking a booger physically and humiliating in front of the live camera and uploading to the web Versus someone named "Bint" on blogosphere calling the person-in-action "retard"? Oh God forbid, I'm not living in a World where common senses are losing, intellectual logics are failing.

    Educate me about your logic. Again "Anonymous", I'm not even sure if you're the one in the movie clip. But here I'm just exercising my "Brainy logic" if you will, to educate someone online for their "Anonymity" and "Being a champion of people with intellectual disabilities" makes no SUBSTANTIVE point.

    6. "And you, Ben - long-winded to champion our Asian brothers and sisters, but nothing to say on behalf of the "retards? Quel dommage!"

    So are you Asian brothers and sisters or Are you the one in the movie clip. Wait I don't need that. There are so many "Anonymous" in the comments.

    ReplyDelete