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“Why are people waiting until they see a black man perpetuate this type of behavior when mainly whites and some kyopos are also acting like native Koreans are the lowest ranking people in this country?”

To end the week, we give you a piece written by RPG, a twenty-something Korean adoptee living in Seoul.  It was originally posted on the writer’s Facebook page.  The writer has given Land of Gazillion Adoptees permission to be able to share it with you, dear reader.

A few thoughts before the feature presentation:

As someone who once worked in the adoption industry, I’m fully aware of the fact that many adoptive parents frequently ask adoption agencies for resources to help them talk about issues of race with their children.  I encourage adoptive parents to consider the idea that perhaps they’re searching for resources in the wrong places.  Perhaps adoptive parents need to seek out resources from adult adoptees.

As someone who has been involved in the adoptee community for a while, I’m fully aware of how dismissive “older” adoptees (present company not excluded) can be of “younger” adoptees.  Folks, we “older” adoptees need to encourage individuals like RPG to get their thoughts out there, rather than telling them, “Go take care of your shit first before you talk about the heavy stuff.”  Clearly, as the following piece demonstrates, we can all learn from the thoughts and perspectives of our younger colleagues.


P.S. Land of Gazillion Adoptees will be on vacation next week.  We’ll be back on Monday, October 10th.

Some of you may have seen the video that someone caught on their mobile phone of a black man threatening a Korean ajussi (old man) on one of the city buses here in Seoul recently. If you haven’t seen it, in the video a young black man is giving a harsh yelling at the ajussi and eventually starts to beat up on him.

In the video, you can notice how no Korean or person on the bus is doing a thing to stick up for this ajussi and everyone is just standing there. Even though the way the black man treats the ajussi is unwarrantedly brutal – because of course the ajussi is just not strong enough to fight back – the only person appearing to try to make the ruckus stop is the ajumma (old woman) who is sitting next to the ajussi and presumably his wife. The bus driver doesn’t even pull over to call for help.

Shortly after the video was released, I happened to see an event posted on Facebook held in Itaewon (the foreigners district in Seoul and also where the US base is located), sort of like a town-hall meeting, for foreigners and Koreans a like to discuss this incident. The event had stated that it was an outlet for people to discuss this incident because many people were appalled at this type of behavior happening. To be honest, I am not up to current events, but I had never seen anything organized like this before to discuss an incident related to foreigner behavior in Korea.

I couldn’t help but to think to myself WHY IS THIS MEETING TAKING PLACE NOW?

I live in Itaewon and every month I see incidents of appalling behavior from foreigners, mainly white US. Military and white English speaking foreigners (presumably English teachers), which means other people probably see this behavior, too. I admit that kyopos also cause some trouble, too – but just a few weeks ago I saw a Colonel from the US military so piss drunk he fell into the roof of an ajumma’s shop across the alley. He broke a lot of the ajummas stuff, including the roof. The ajumma said it would be okay if he gave her a little bit of money, but he refused. There was a language barrier but the Colonel was telling the ajumma very slowly and stupidly, “WE [Americans] HELP YOUR PEOPLE. WE GIVE YOU MONEY.” Then he was threatening her saying “I’LL GIVE YOU MONEY BUT YOUR FAMILY WILL HAVE TROUBLE.” When me and a friend (European adoptee) went outside to see what was going on, the soldier was already in a cop car – but of course nothing would happen to him and the ajumma would never receive and reimbursement because the Koreans turn the soldiers over to the US military for them to deal with (anyone remember the incident where the girls were hit by the tank a few years back?).

When we tried explaining to the Colonel that the ajumma had asked for a bit of money to repair the shop, he said, “DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM? I AM A COLONEL. I HELP YOUR COUNTRY.” Of course he didn’t know that I was American and my friend was European because we both are adopted and look Korean, but this is just an example of the type of ignorant, appalling behavior I have seen from foreigners around here.

So back to my point. I am not at all warranting the type of behavior that can be found in the video of the scene on the bus, but I couldn’t help but thinking WHY IS THIS MEETING HAPPENING NOW when I see incidents like this every month?

The only real reason I could think of was because the man in this video was black. I guess people would rather speak up about incidents like these when they see a black man perpetuating this type of ignorant, condescending foreigner behavior than a white man or a kyopo.

Although, again, I don’t defend the man in the video and I do believe in constructive and open dialogue, it made me sick to my stomach to see an event posted like this only after a black man was involved. I couldn’t help but think that this was a form of racism. Why are people waiting until they see a black man perpetuate this type of behavior when mainly whites and some kyopos are also acting like native Koreans are the lowest ranking people in this country?

21 Comments on “Why are people waiting until they see a black man perpetuate this type of behavior when mainly whites and some kyopos are also acting like native Koreans are the lowest ranking people in this country?”

  1. wwe (white, western euro) cultural (and other) hegemony. I did not capitalize certain letters for the reason that I am quite disgusted.

    • What are you disgusted by, Brent?

      • Kevin,

        As are aware, I am both a U.S. citizen and an “other”. If only you would have left me to cork off with a cryptic comment that could be interpreted in as many ways as you have readers…

        OK, here goes nothing… There are several tiers to my disgust.

        So far as I can see, I am not an “American” for I do not match the phenotypic mold of the archetypal “American” who is a white, male, heterosexual with an amount of wealth and education and, quite likely a self-proclaimed “Christian”. I hit several of those elements, but not all of them (I will leave everyone to guess which). As a U.S. citizen, I am disturbed by both the video and the described actions and speech of a military officer (it would matter little to me if the individual had been an enlisted member of the U.S. military).

        As an “other”, I find that underlying racial/color/cultural lines, seldom brought to light except when individuals with skin tones darker than my own are involved, seem to be at issue.

        As an adoptee whose parents were wwe “Christian” missionaries who carted me off to live in Nigeria for five years, I find my US lenses filtering what the video depicts. I find it at least disconcerting. From his speech pattern and the words he used, I suspect the black male actor to have been from the U.S. While I really have no idea what lead up to the incident on the video, I am unable to ascertain why an individual from a foreign nation-state would be so presumptuous to act in an overtly violent manner, especially given the striking physical size and age disparities involved.

        As a U.S. citizen, the individual in the video whom I perceive to also be a U.S. citizen behaves in a manner reflective of an attitude here in the U.S. of A. which I can only describe as “arrogance of power” through attribution-by-citizenship. In a similar manner, the story of the officer strikes to the core arrogance of the “World’s Last (military) Superpower”.

        If the foregoing is insufficient, perhaps I will return to revisit this matter, say, on October 10th – I’m just sayin’ – stir the pot and leave it to stew for a while… 🙂

  2. It was in the Korean paper that they ajushee has said “neh-gah” which is obviously “you are” in Korean to the ajeemah. And the Black man thought he said “nigger/niggah”.

  3. Oh and apparently the bus driver drove the bus to the police station where the dude was arrested

    • Thanks again, Matthew!

    • This guys is disgusting and I am truly embarassed as an American. How is that he knows what “ship shaki” is but dont know what ne-ga means. So he took the time to learn all the bad words and forgot to learn the proper words. I believe this was a learned behavior from his roots and I’m sure he made his parents proude. I would like to know what his reaction would havebeen if a Korean younster had acted this way to his grand parents. I hope this stupid man was arrested, beaten and then deported out of Korea. oh and to all those Koreans who stood by and let this happen should be beaten too.

  4. I don’t care if that ajushee did call him a nigger. You’re in someone else’s country, you’re not in America. Take the American attitude, the belief, and keep it to yourself. I believe in sticking up for what you believe in, but you do not act a fool when you are a guest in a foreign country. That’s just ridiculous, have some respect for yourself and the country you represent

    • Matthew, thank you again for your thoughts. However, there are folks here who are going to be impacted by your first sentence in this comment; in fact, one of our monthly columnists is African American. That particular word carries the weight of our long history here in the US. Because of this, please consider the outcome of some of your thoughts before you express them here. Thanks again for all of your comments, and, if you have any concerns, please feel free to email me, kostvollmers(at)

  5. RPG, thanks for the cogent article! Among the issues that you’re touching upon — U.S. militarism — warrants particular attention. Itaewon is a former camptown, which had bars/clubs that were designated specifically for U.S. soldiers, and remains a troubling site of violence from sex trafficking to black market economy among others. (Previously, Yongsan military base was built by the Japanese, and the U.S. forces took it over and renovated it for their purposes. In fact, the odd bridge at the main entrance gate was constructed so that personnel would not have to cross the street and see anti-U.S. militarism protesters.) This brutal exceptionalism — “Do you know who I am!? I help your country.” — is even codified into law through SOFA ( — Status of Forces Agreement. The USFK’s SOFA stipulates special protections for soldiers who are admonished to follow Korean law and who may be arrested by Korean authorities. In the past, however, these protections amounted to exemptions. Moreover, USFK does not pay the Korean government taxes for goods, land use, etc. At the same time, Koreans are much more racist toward African Americans as you are pointing out perhaps in part due to their perception of the LA Race Riots (Sa-I-Gu), which the Korean media covered during 1992. I realize that I’m not offering answers here but rather trying to validate and to account for (although partially, I realize!) what you’re seeing. Again, thanks so much for speaking your mind! ^ ^

  6. This is happening now because it was seen on video. every other story of foreigner bad behavior is usually thought to be exaggerated hyperbole. If you must know I have seen and heard of equally and even much worse behavior by koreans toward foreigners. I’ve seen young koreans make racist comments towards blacks, I saw a korean woman in itaewon say abusive things about a five year old african girl and then saw the girls mother fighting that korean woman. I was the one who broke it up. I’ve broken up 3 fights between koreans and was scolded all three times by koreans who said it wasn’t my business to break it up. I also know of a woman whose 15 year old only child was murdered in a sauna by 2 korean boys and how the no one intervened and then even lied in court about what happened. She received no justice. her name is stephanie white. see Mightie mike white on facebook for details. people do bad things all over the world, and this particular video feeds some koreans already racist views, but it also informs people like me as to why we need to learn people’s language because it sounds like he was reacting to what he “thought” was a racial slur but was rather an innocent comment.

  7. The age thing, sex thing, and race thing… some make it a bigger issue than what it is. The video went viral not because he was black- but by the way he acted. He was clearly in the wrong. I think if a white guy did that in Korea and someone had their camera on…the same thing would have happened. If an Asian went off…they would ignore it. Does it matter what color he was? It’s about the lack of dignity, the lack of using common sense- did he forget he was in a foreign country? A friend of mine tried to order steaks in Korea. He was highly intelligent, was a west point graduate, and actually tried to integrate with the Korean populace. He tried ordering our food by making cow noises and pointing to the menu…he looked like a fool going Moooo! Moooo! Who knew that Korean cows spoke in a different Cow Language and the proper way of Mooing in Korea is to say Umm-mae! As for the reference to the guy who said he was a colonel…it may have been possible but I highly doubt it! He may have been a contractor, a lower ranking person, or even a civilian to excert his so called authority. I have seen this done in the 8+ years living in Korea. Point taken but to lump all military as scum is a bit unfair. Making references to the 2 girls getting killed is also-inacurate. The stories depend on who puts a spin on it. I was THERE when the girls got killed. It was purely an accident- do you think Soldiers run over children for fun? A number of people got fired- many good soldiers had their careers ruined. SUre, there should have been something done but at whos expense? The engineering equipment they were driving has many blind spots- it has a narrow slot for people to peer through as they drive the 10+ton machine. The girls who lived near a training area were used to heavy machinery driving past them. Put these 2 scinarios together and it was ripe for an accident. Sure, a few bad apples who serve inthe military makes the rest of those who are trying to do good, makes them look bad! But you largely ignnore any good the military has done. As for military not going to jail…that is true. It doesn’t mean they get away without punishment. I have seen leadership forced to retire, lose their commands, and get hit with jail time. They don’t allow US Servicemembers stay in Korean jails because they are a violation of humane treatment! The families are tasked to assist those who are locked up…who will ensure the servicemember recieves a fair trial, food, and other aide? The SOFA or Status of Forces Agreement allows some protection to the people who work there. Instead of sharing that we need to listen to the young…which I agree we need to listen to ALL people in this forum, what is more important is to listen to those who will not slant the news/facts only to favor their ideals. It is more important that we listen to those who have factual evidence and have a balanced approach as they investigate the facts.

    • Thanks, Jayme! As always, your informative and absolutely have your own thoughts. It’s great that you took the time to share them here. If you want to share additional factual info, please let me know. I’d be delighted to give you your own post. My email is: kostvollmers(at)

      I do take issue with you in regards how RPG’s piece may be fact/fiction. It’s an opinion piece. She is entitled to her opinions as you are.

  8. Back to dignity- I haear blacks call each other Nigger, as though it is a common word. Don’t want to believe it? Then take a listen to black music and their words! Nigga this and that! Once someone outside their race say the same word- it is then called bigotry. I am Korean and if someone called me a gook- i would be offended regardless if it was done by a black, white, or asian person. It seems that a larger share of the blacks are poorer, more violent, and have the least amount of dignity for themselves and others. It also may be racism at work, the sytem designed to fail the blacks (arrests etc) and less oppertunities are available to them. I think we have a lot of work in America- for we are truely devided: over sex, race, and religious beliefs.

    • Jayme, as I said to Matthew, the use of the term here can have impact on a lot of folks. You and I can’t begin to understand the historical weight that the word puts on the shoulders of African Americans. Again, I’m thankful that you’re engaging in this conversation and the forum is open to you. However, as you expect from others, please consider the consequences of your thoughts.

      Additionally, you make some incredible statements about our fellow African American citizens. You’re speculating and throwing out opinions. Again, didn’t you say something about listening to folks with facts in the previous comment?

      As for the US being divided, perhaps you’re right, and perhaps folks like you, who are brave enough to throw your thoughts out in the universe, should help mend the divisions.

      Thanks, Jayme. Again, I’m happy to give you a full post here at Land of Gazillion Adoptees at any time.

  9. I have a great number of friends who are black. I work hard to spread diversity and I probably didn’t do justice to what I wanted to say. Dignity for thems was in reference to the words in the songs sung by many black artists. It the common public sees it as a dirogitory word, then is it doing them good by calling each other by that title? When I say they are more violent or poorer…its not meant to insult blacks. I want to bring a focus on the disproportionate rates that are seen in the black population, that I think they are recieving unfair treatment. Don’t assume I can’t back this up or that I am out making generalized statements off the cuff. It can be based off real data:

    State…………………Black Population………….Black Prison Pop.
    Georgia 29% 64%
    Ohio 12% 52%
    Wisconsin 6% 48%
    Illinois 15% 65%
    Arkansas 16% 52%
    Louisiana 33% 76%
    Mississippi 36% 75%
    Alabama 26% 65%
    Tennessee 16% 53%
    Michigan 14% 55%
    South Carolina 30% 69%
    North Carolina 22% 64%
    Virginia 20% 68%
    Pennsylvania 10% 56%
    New York 15% 51%
    Delaware 19% 63%
    Maryland 28% 77%
    New Jersey 13% 64%

    This disparity can be seen to so many other areas of life to include: drop out rates, poor health stats, and widening poverty rates in the black population. I should have seperated and went more in debth with my comments but with contraints in time, lack of sleep, and not being with a real person…sometimes what I write doesn’t come out as I like (sorry). I do stand firm with the following comments about the 2 girls who got killed- if you speak to teh Koreans- sure the Americans are painted poorly! If you speak about the man who attacked the couple on the bus…I don’t think its about race. Its goes way further than that- you probably know how the Korean culture thinks about their elders etc. To assume that kind of ticked me off and I wanted to say…this is so American! I do believe that racism is very rampant in Korea- I have spoken about this in other forums. There is a pecking order of who is higher on the totum pole in Korea and they want to prove how much better they are than you are! Again- you were justified to put me in my place but that was not my intent.

  10. Hmm… color lines, culture lines, political lines, military lines, economic lines, sex lines, age lines, language lines… What other lines does this apparently “simple” post cross? What communication barriers do all the lines present? Through what lenses do each of us see the world?

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