Expatriates in South Korea alternate between hope and fear

Published:  11 Jun at 6 PM
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Tagged: USA, China, Money
Two million expats in South Korea are swinging between despair, hope and fear due to the threat of discord between Trump and Kim Jong Un.

Ever since the Winter Olympics, South Koreans have veered from hope through fear to despair as the political circus and its two main clowns played games of one-upmanship and power. Unheard and mostly unseen, the two million expats in the South endured their own emotional swings, now coming to a head as the two combatants meet in Singapore.

South Korea’s expat community is a permanent part of society and contributes day by day to the success and diversity of the small country, and is composed mainly of Chinese and Americans. Both their native countries are heavily involved in tomorrow’s meet. Although the community’s voice isn’t often heard and even less listened to, the effect of any decision made by the two leaders will affect it as much as it affects the Korean people and the foreigners who’ve built their lives around serving the wellbeing of the country.

Sadly, the South Korean government’s inability to allow expatriates their rightful voice in important public debates is based on a long-standing fear of foreigners translated into a deep-rooted discrimination common across Korean society. Expatriates are tolerated and occasionally celebrated, but never accepted as members of the same society working towards a shared future. For expat professionals, South Korea is a good place to further careers, make money and generally enjoy their lives in a Western way, but their position is the same as that of expat workers whose families first arrived after the end of the Korean war.

Human Rights Watch said it all recently, referring to the long-held prejudices apparent in the country as major human rights issues which go unchallenged and are even governmentally encouraged. Expatriates are now in exactly the same position as South Korean nationals, in that armed conflict between the two halves of the peninsula caused by two unstable leaders would prove only one thing – bombs don’t care who they kill.
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