NATIONAL

Racism in Korea brought to court

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  • Published : Mar 30, 2010 - 14:29
  • Updated : Mar 30, 2010 - 14:29
For the first time ever, a Korean court is to hand down a judgment on racially discriminative remarks by a Korean.
The Incheon District Prosecutor`s Office recently indicted a 31-year-old man surnamed Park for insulting an Indian professor with discriminatory remarks, according to SungKongHoe University and Gonggam, a non-profit human rights lawyers` group yesterday.
The prosecutor`s indictment was based on the criminal law clause on contempt, as the Korean law system does not yet have an exclusive regulation or clause on racial discrimination.
Park is accused of calling Hussein, a 28-year-old professor at SungKongHoe University who he met on the bus on July 10, "dirty and smelly," said officials. Park, who was drunk at the time, first claimed to have been insulted by the Indian professor, but withdrew his claim during the investigation.
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"All citizens, whether Korean or foreign, are equal before the law," said a prosecutorial the official.
Gonggam, which provided the professor with legal support, stressed that the case would act as a milestone in the legal history of Korea.
"Though the court`s official decision is yet to be made, it is epochal that the prosecution officially regarded such racially discriminatory remarks as subjects of criminal punishment," said a Gonggam lawyer. "The case, in the very least, will arouse social awareness on the chronic practice of racism in Korean society and encourage people to speak up about their experiences."
Based on this case, Korean society should make further efforts to clear its system of deeply rooted racial practices, he also said.
Hussein also filed a petition to the National Human Rights Commission last month, demanding that Park and the related police officials address their attitudes on race.
"Not all but many are supporting me in my actions," the professor said. "It is high time that Korea officially started to bring the racism issue out in public."
Park`s remarks were not the first examples of discrimination Hussein experienced in Korea, he also said.
"I have often been, based on my skin color and nationality, treated in ways that I would not have been, had I been a Korean or a Caucasian," he said. "I believe that this debate which I have brought up will not be short, but I will nevertheless fight to the end."
The issue is drawing attention not only in legal circles but also of the some 1.1 million foreign nationals residing in Korea. The non-citizen population is projected to reach 4.09 million by 2050, to take up 10 percent of the entire Korean population, according to the Ministry of Land, Transport recently.
Amid such controversies, Rep. Jun Byung-hun of the main opposition Democratic Party yesterday presented his plan to submit a bill on an anti-racism law.
(tellme@heraldcorp.com)

By Bae Hyun-jung