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Anti-Korean sentiment or Koryophobia describes negative feelings towards Korean people, Korean culture, or the countries of North Korea or South Korea. It can even refer to feelings between Korean groups, especially between North and South Korea, or between Koreans on the Korean peninsula and the Korean diaspora.
Anti-Korean sentiment has varied by location and time. Major historical events that impacted it include the Japanese occupation of Korea, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. In recent years, sentiment has largely been impacted by politics, territorial disputes, disputes over claims of historical revisionism, economic competition, and culture.
Anti-Korean sentiment is particularly prevalent in China, Japan, the United States, and between both Koreas. The Korean Wave has also sparked a pushback in some countries. In other countries, Koreans have either been the target of racism because they are members of a specific ethnic group or they have been the target of racism against Asians in general. Various slurs for Koreans also exist, including slurs which Koreans describe other Koreans with.
Main article: Anti-Korean sentiment in China
Korea and China have historically maintained complicated ties. When Korea was annexed by Imperial Japan in 1910, it fell under Japanese influence. In China it is believed that some ethnic Koreans served in the Imperial Japanese Army whose invasion of China launched the Second Sino-Japanese War in July 1937. Adding to this sentiment is the allegation that some Koreans reportedly operated the Burma-Siam Death Railway. The Chinese referred to Koreans using the slur er guizi (Chinese: 二鬼子; pinyin: èr guǐzi).[better source needed]
At the end of World War II, North Korea, which was aligned with the Soviet bloc, became an ally of the People's Republic of China (PRC), while the PRC and the Republic of Korea did not recognize each other. During the Korean War, when China was engaged in war with South Korea and its United Nations allies, propaganda was used to indoctrinate people into hating South Korea, which was called a "puppet state" of the United States by the PRC government of the time.
From 1992 onward, after South Korea's normalization of relations with China, the relationship between the two nations gradually improved. From 2000 onward, Korean popular culture became popular within China.
A February 2021 survey conducted by scholars from Rice University, the University of British Columbia, and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy had 43% of Chinese respondents expressing an unfavorable view of South Korea, compared to 49% expressing a favorable view.
Main article: Anti-Korean sentiment in Japan
In the Kantō Massacre shortly after the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake, ethnic Koreans in Japan were scapegoated and killed by mobs of Japanese vigilantes.
During the 2002 FIFA World Cup, Japanese and Korean supporters clashed with one another. Both sides were also known to post racist messages against each other on online bulletins. There were also disputes regarding how the event was to be hosted, as a result of the rivalry between the two nations. The territorial dispute over Liancourt Rocks also fuels outrage. Manga Kenkanryu (often referred to as Hating the Korean Wave) by Sharin Yamano discusses these issues while making many other arguments and claims against Korea.
Zainichi Koreans in Japan are also publicly perceived to be a nuisance and are seen as likely to cause trouble and start riots, a view shared by former Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara. A Zainichi organisation which has strong ties to the DPRK, Chongryon, is commonly accused of providing funding and material to North Korea and indoctrinating the Zainichi Korean population to actively hate Japan.
Some right-wing groups in Japan today have targeted ethnic Koreans living within Japan. One such group, known as Zaitokukai, is organized by members on the Internet, and has led street demonstrations against Korean schools.
There is also much concern in Japan regarding North Korea and its nuclear and long-range missile capabilities, as a result of missile tests in 1993, 1998 and 2006 and an underground nuclear test in 2006. There are also controversies regarding North Korean abductions of Japanese, where Japanese citizens were abducted by North Korean agents during the 1970s and 1980s.
The Korean Wave, or the exportation of South Korean pop culture, has created some negative feelings among pockets of Japanese society. Many Japanese citizens with conservative views and some right-wing nationalist groups have organized anti-Korean Wave demonstrations via 2channel. On 9 August 2011, more than 2,000 protesters demonstrated in front of Fuji TV's headquarters in Odaiba, Tokyo against the broadcasting of Korean dramas. Earlier, in July 2011, well-known actor Sousuke Takaoka was fired from his agency, Stardust Promotion, for tweeting criticisms against the influx of Korean dramas. The general perception of Koreans on 2channel is negative, with users depicting them as a violent, unethical, and irrational people who are a 'threat' to Japan. Users often reference stereotypes of Koreans, such as the use of dogs in Korean cuisine.
On April 2014, several anti-Korean stickers were found posted at 13 locations along the Shikoku Pilgrimage route; the stickers were denounced by a spokesman from the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage Association.
According to a 2014 BBC World Service Poll, Japanese people alike hold the largest anti–North Korean sentiment in the world, with 91% negative views of North Korea's influence, and with only 1% positive view making Japan the third country with the most negative feelings of North Korea in the world, after South Korea and the United States.
Since the end of World War II, the relationship between both North Korea and South Korea has been hostile. The two nations fought in the Korean War, which ended with an armistice agreement in 1953 without a peace treaty. Both nations claim the entire Korean Peninsula and have competed for sovereignty. Tensions after the war reached their highest point in 1968, due to four major events: a North Korean assassination attempt on South Korean President Park Chung Hee, a failed counter-assassination attempt against Kim Il Sung, the Uljin–Samcheok Landings, and the execution of a 9 year old South Korean boy by North Korean commandoes during the landings. Although the relationship somewhat warmed during the Sunshine Policy of the late 1990s to early 2000s, they have since cooled.
In South Korea, hostility toward North Korea is called "anti-North [sentiment]" (반북) and is commonly associated with right-leaning politics. According to a 2014 BBC World Service poll, 3% of South Koreans viewed North Korea's influence positively, with 91% expressing a negative view, making South Korea, after Japan, the country with the most negative feelings of North Korea in the world.
Naval skirmishes frequently occur between the two states, with North Korea targeting South Korean naval bases. The Bombardment of Yeonpyeong was cited by former UN ambassador Bill Richardson to be "the most serious crisis on the Korean peninsula since the 1953 armistice".
As of 2023[update], there are around 33,000 North Korean defectors in South Korea. They have widely and consistently reported experiencing discrimination. Areas of discrimination include but are not limited to employment discrimination, social isolation, and difficulty finding spouses. Some South Koreans even admit to avoiding businesses owned by North Korean defectors.
According to a 2012 study, North Korean men have greater difficulty than North Korean women in finding a spouse. A 2015 paper highlighted the tendency of a South Korean variety show, Now On My Way to Meet You, to disproportionately present North Korean women as attractive marriage partners.
The treatment of ethnic Koreans who were born abroad and returned to South Korea has changed over time. In the 1990s, many young people with pro-unification sentiment viewed ethnic Koreans positively, and saw them as "representatives of the authentic Korean nation". However, sentiments subsequently cooled, and South Korean identity came to exclude both North Koreans and foreign-born ethnic Koreans.
Ethnic Koreans who now live in South Korea have widely reported experiencing discrimination from South Koreans. They are reportedly seen as lazy, prone to commit crimes, and dirty. A 2009 study found that while foreign-born ethnic Koreans were preferred over non-Korean workers by employers, ethnic Koreans were "at least as likely to report discrimination".
People with partial Korean heritage have also experienced discrimination in South Korea, although this trend may be diminishing since at latest the late 2000s. In 2009, South Korean schools were prohibited from promoting ideas of ethnic purity and homogeneity, and in 2011 the Korean military amended their oath, replacing the term minjok, meaning "nation", with "citizen".
For much of the US's early relationship with Korea, the overall American public was overwhelmingly apathetic towards Korea. The perception of Korea by politicians and the press, however, changed over time.
Korea's earliest interactions with the US caused it to gain notoriety with American politicians and press. The 1866 General Sherman incident, in which Koreans destroyed and killed the crew of a US ship that was illegally navigating its rivers, drew widespread condemnation in American newspapers. The New York Tribune wrote:
Of Corea [sic], a country in North-Eastern Asia, little is known. It is nominally tributary to China, and is inhabited by a semi-barbarous people, extremely jealous of foreigners, with whom they hold but a very limited intercourse.
Koreans were widely portrayed as vicious, xenophobic, and savage "orientals" that rejected the ideals of the civilized West. The following 1871 United States expedition to Korea and its ensuing conflict also contributed to these negative perceptions. The American press mostly reacted positively to the Joseon–United States Treaty of 1882, which Joseon was compelled to sign.
For decades, most publications portrayed Korea as backwards, poor, and inferior to Japan. Most exoticised the country with nicknames such as "The Hermit Kingdom" and "The Land of Hats". W. C. Kitchin wrote in his 1884 book Christianity in Corea:
The story is told by those who have seen it that it takes three able-bodied Coreans to run a common spade. The people are extremely indolent and as a consequence miserably poor.
Many publications commented negatively on the poor social status of Korean women. One newspaper headline read "Corean Women: Noble Ladies and Degraded Slave Girls of the Hermit Kingdom: They are More Secluded than Turks and Have Few Rights Respected by Man".
The minority of American journalists, politicians, and activists who visited Korea generally held more favorable opinions of it, and some expressed frustration at the negative opinions of their countrymen.
Initially, sentiments towards the Japanese colonization of Korea were positive.
US President Theodore Roosevelt was an outspoken critic of Joseon and Korean people. He described Koreans as "unenlightened and recalcitrant" and proudly called himself "pro-Japanese". These sentiments were mostly shared by other high-level US officials, who felt that colonization by the more-enlightened Japanese would be beneficial to Korea. Negative impressions may have been somewhat influenced by "Japanese information channels", which had significantly higher funding and reach in the US than any Korean sources did.
In 1894, an article in the New York Herald declared:
[Japan] has the right to occupy Corea in the interest of the commerce and civilization of the Western world. She will remain in Corea as warder of the little kingdom just emerging from the Chinese darkness, assisting her in moral, intellectual, and material development, leaving the country when her work is done, when the Hermit Kingdom has been place on the proper pathway of good government. Like Japan, and through Japan, Corea must be made the outpost of Western civilization and commerce against Mongolian decrepitude and exclusiveness.
However, writings about Korea became more sympathetic in the late 1910s, after information about Japan's Twenty-One Demands to China became public knowledge, and after Japan's violent suppression of the Korean March 1st Movement in 1919.
Following North Korea's heavy re-militarization and a series of missile tests, Americans were conditioned to fear a possible attack by a "rogue state" such as North Korea. In United States President George W. Bush's State of the Union Address on January 29, 2002, he described North Korea as a part of the "Axis of evil". Following the development of the nuclear program of North Korea and the 2006 North Korean nuclear test, the United States imposed UN sanctions on North Korea. These economic sanctions are very unlikely to be lifted by the United States due to North Korea's noncompliance with the six-party talk agreements.
From 1988 until 2008, and since November 2017, North Korea has been designated a state sponsor of terrorism for supporting Hamas and Hezbollah against Israel, their role in the murder of Kim Jong-nam, supporting dictator Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian Civil War, close relationships with Iran, and the suspicious death of Otto Warmbier.
The 1992 Los Angeles riots were partially motivated by Anti-Korean sentiment among African Americans, and famously lead to the rise of the phrase "roof Koreans" or "rooftop Koreans". A year before the riots, on March 16, 1991, Korean American store owner Soon Ja Du fatally shot 15-year-old African American Latasha Harlins. This incident and other tensions became a significant part of the 1992 riots, which were sparked by alleged police brutality towards Rodney King. The protests saw mass ransacking and destruction of Korean American and other Asian-owned stores in the Koreatown, Los Angeles area by groups of African-Americans, as well as armed Korean Americans defending stores from the rooftops of buildings. Both Koreans and African Americans were killed in the riots. Of the $1 billion in damages the city experienced, around half was suffered by Korean business owners.
In 1937, nearly 172,000 ethnic Koreans were forcefully transferred from the Russian Far East to Soviet Central Asia under the national delimitation policy.
The deportation was preceded by a typical Soviet scenario of political repression: falsified trials of local party leaders accused of insurrection, accusations of plans of the secession of the Far Eastern Krai, local party purges, and articles in Pravda about the Japanese espionage in the Far East.
The resettlement plans were revived with new vigor in August 1937, ostensibly with the purpose of suppressing "the penetration of the Japanese espionage into the Far Eastern Krai". This time, however, the direction of resettlement was westward, to Soviet Central Asia. From September to October 1937, more than 172,000 Soviet Koreans were deported from the border regions of the Russian Far East to Kazakh SSR and Uzbek SSR (the latter including Karakalpak ASSR).
See also: Koreans in Taiwan
Within Taiwan, some existing animosity towards Koreans amongst Taiwanese may be present as a result of the rivalry between the two states in relation to baseball. Disputes between Taiwan and Korea in the international sport competition arose numerous times.
In November 2010, Taiwanese citizens protested against the disqualification of Taekwondo athlete Yang Shu-chun at the 2010 Asian Games after a Korean-Filipino referee disqualified a Taiwanese fighter. Images and messages deriding South Korean products and culture were widely shared online. There were reports of restaurants displaying ‘No Koreans’ signs on their doors, and protesters burning the Korean flag or destroying South Korean products.
On 23 August 1992, South Korea's "Nordpolitik" (Northern diplomacy) have made it to establish a diplomatic ties with the People's Republic of China after Soviet Union. This resulted in the change in the diplomatic relationship of South Korea with the Republic of China, since it replaced anti-communist foreign policy with an effort to improve relations with other surrounding countries in the sense of geopolitics, including the People's Republic of China, in order to pressure and appease North Korea that eases the political anxiety and softens military tension in the Korean Peninsula and enables the possibility of a peaceful reunification of Korea. As normalization begun, President Roh transferred diplomatic recognition from the ROC to PRC, and confiscated the property of the ROC embassy, transferring it to the PRC.
According to an official from the Korean trade office in Taipei, sales of Korean products are not very successful in Taiwan because "the Taiwanese felt very betrayed after Korea severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan and reestablished ties with China in 1992, because the people of Taiwan had seen Korea as an ally in the fight against Communism... Now because the two countries have similar export-oriented economies and focus on the same business sectors, the Taiwanese see Korea as a great rival, and think that losing to Korea would be the end of Taiwan."
In June 2012, CEO of Foxconn Terry Gou stated that he had "great esteem for Japanese (businessmen), especially those who are able to disagree with you in person and not stab you in the back, unlike the Gaoli bangzi (a racial slur for Koreans)", sparking controversy.
It has been alleged that South Korean soldiers committed war crimes during the Vietnam War that killed somewhere between 40,000 to 50,000 civilians, which has led to lingering anti-Korean sentiment especially amongst older Vietnamese people. The South Korean government has long denied these charges. However in 2020, alleged Vietnamese survivors of these war crimes, including citizen Nguyen Thi Thanh, filed lawsuits against South Korea. By contrast, Vietnam and North Korea enjoyed a more positive relationship in the Vietnam War.
Allegations of sex trafficking in South Korea of Vietnamese women has also sparked some negative sentiment amongst Vietnamese people.
While the Korean Wave has been mostly enthusiastically accepted among younger women in Vietnam, there has been some pushback from government and the public. Criticisms focused on the perceived femininity of Korean male idols and perceived self-indulgence that went against the spirit of the collectivist Communist culture.
See also: Koreans in the Philippines
Historically, Korean soldiers were compelled to serve on the side of the Empire of Japan during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines in World War II. This has caused some Filipinos, especially older ones, to associate the Koreans with atrocities committed during the war.
Ethnographic fieldwork done in Sabang from 2003 to 2015 found that the influx of Koreans was viewed negatively by some locals and resident Westerners. South Koreans were also identified in 2007 as the top violator of immigration laws according to the Philippine Bureau of Immigration.
Many Korean social media influencers have been accused of a marketing strategy dubbed pinoy baiting, a practice that many other foreigners are also accused of. The strategy refers to the insincere usage, appropriation, and acknowledgment of Filipino culture by foreigners to pander to a Filipino audience.
Some Filipinos perceive Koreans to be rude and to refuse integration into Filipino culture. Another area of concern was the prohibition of South Korean tourists from doing business with local tourist firms by South Korean tour operators. This would mean that Filipino firms would benefit significantly less from South Korean tourists.
Some Korean media portrayals of Filipinos in movies such as Wandeuki (Punch) and negative treatment of Filipino-born or Filipino-raised celebrities living in South Korea such as politician Jasmine Lee and entertainer Sandara Park, have worsened Filipino views of Koreans. In an interview, Sandara Park stated, "[Filipinos] are really gentle. I feel upset because the Korean media only reports crime [when talking about the Philippines]."
Senator Jinggoy Estrada proposed banning all Korean dramas and movies in the Philippines, and said "My observation is if we continue showing Korean telenovelas, our citizens praise the Koreans while Filipino artists continue losing jobs and money. So sometimes it comes to my mind that we should ban the telenovelas of the foreigners, and the Filipino artists who have great talent in acting are what we should be showing in our own country." Estrada clarified that he was only frustrated "that while we are only too eager and willing to celebrate South Korea's entertainment industry, we have sadly allowed our own to deteriorate because of the lack of support from the movie going public."
In September 2020, Filipino-American TikTok star Bella Poarch posted a video of herself dancing, in which Japan's rising sun flag could be seen tattooed on her arm. Koreans swarmed the comments section saying the tattoo was offensive and that she should apologize and get it removed.
Shortly after backlash and criticism from her video, Bella posted a comment of apology on TikTok : "I’m very sorry if my tattoo offends you," she wrote. "I love Korea, please forgive me." Additionally, her caption read, "I would never do anything to hurt anyone." Bella also explained that she got the tattoo back in March 2020 but had it scheduled for removal. She also promised to learn more about the symbol's history and help educate people further on the symbol, but has been unable to remove the tattoo as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the apology, many Korean users continued with hostile comments, attacking Filipinos referring to them as poor, slaves, ugly, and uneducated, as well as making racist remarks. The issue soon spilled over Twitter, sparking an argument on Korea's racist attitudes and the long history between South Korea and the Philippines. Along with #CancelKorea, the hashtags #ApologizeToFilipinos including #CancelRacism and #한국취소 (meaning Cancel Korea, or in Hanja: #韓國取消) also trended with Twitter, with Filipino users airing out their anger at the mockery and insults.
However, the anger was relieved when other Korean netizens apologized on behalf of the racist remarks, spreading the hashtag '미안해요 필리핀 (#SorryToFillipinos)'. From these apologies, some Filipinos suggested to change the hashtag #CancelKorea to #CancelRacism. Some Filipino netizens went out to apologize for any offensive remarks made against the Koreans during the spat, using the hashtag #SorryToKoreans and accepting the apology.
See also: Koreans in Indonesia
In Indonesia, Anti-Korean sentiment emerged in the 2000s. The emergence of anti-Korean sentiment is caused by several factors, such as plastic surgery and atheism in South Korea. Some Indonesians call Koreans "plastic". This stereotype arises because of the popularity of plastic surgery in South Korea. This stereotype has strengthened since the suicide of the former member of Shinee, Jonghyun. In addition, there are assumptions that Korean drama lovers are excessive and people of Korea are always committing adultery. It was reported in 2013 that some Bali businesses had put up signs prohibiting Korean customers, due to reports that a number of them flouted regulations during their stay.
In 2021, a South Korean man allegedly launched racist attack against Indonesian woman on social media, this sparked anger among Indonesian public and triggered further anti-Korean sentiment in the country. also in that year, A Korean internet personality living in the country named SunnyDahye also under fire by Indonesian people due to her past comments calling Indonesians are "stupid" and she also allegedly pretended to fast during the month of Ramadhan, the live coverage of the 2020 Olympics in garnered ire to some Indonesians after MBC mistakenly setting a picture of the map of Malaysia when the Indonesian contingent arrives at the opening ceremony.
See also: Koreans in Mongolia
In 2008, it was reported that some South Korean men took sex tourism trips to Mongolia, often as clients of South Korean-run businesses in the country. This was said to spark anti-Korean sentiment and an increased number of assaults on South Korean nationals in the country.
See also: Koreans in Thailand
The popularity of the Korean wave in Thailand has led some Thai authorities to cast it as a threat to local culture. Some locals in 2017 reportedly began to perceive Hallyu negatively or as a form of cultural imperialism.
In early 2020, a leading Italian music school banned all East Asian students from attending classes due to coronavirus fear, with South Koreans the largest nationality being affected. South Korean students also describe being barred from the building and being mocked by other students because of their origin. In addition, some South Korean residents have reported fear of leaving their homes amid rising incidents of discrimination and mockery, and others considered leaving Italy because they could not "stay in a place that hates us".
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, South Korean tourists were instructed to avoid public places and remain in isolation in their hotels. The Israeli military announced its intention to quarantine South Korean nationals to a military base. Many of the remaining South Koreans were rejected by hotels and were forced to spend nights at Ben Gurion Airport. An Israeli newspaper subsequently published a Korean complaint that "Israel is Treating [Korean and other Asian] Tourists Like Coronavirus". South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha has described Israel's response as "excessive".
Many Koreans residents in Germany have reported an increase in anti-Korean incidents following the outbreak of COVID-19, and the South Korean embassy has warned its citizens of the increasing hateful climate facing them. As suspicion toward Koreans is growing, locals are also opting to avoid Korean restaurants, some of which have reported a sales decline of 80%.
KLM, the country's flag carrier airline, prohibited only Korean passengers from using their toilets on one of their flights.
In general, there has recently been a spate of anti-Korean incidents in the Netherlands, which have targeted both Korean nationals and Dutch people of Korean descent. These incidents range from vandalism of homes to violent assault to harassment. More than 150 Korean expat respondents in an online survey indicated they had experienced an xenophobic incident.
Despite the popularity of South Korean culture in Brazil among young people, some anti-Korean incidents have occurred in Brazil. In 2017, the Brazilian television host Raul Gil was accused of racism and xenophobia while making derogatory jokes to Asians and a "slit eye" gesture during a live interview with the K-Pop group K.A.R.D. This drew backlash from the Brazilian and foreign press. In 2019, a Brazilian couple published several videos on social media making fun of Korean food and language during a trip to South Korea. The case generated harsh criticism on social media.
The following is a list of derogatory terms referring to either Korea or Korean people.
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