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Pet Sins September 2004

Korean bewails other Koreans' preferential treatment of whites but does the same himself

I used to work in a place with a significant number of Koreans. One of them, X, complained that the staff of a nearby Korean restaurant "serves the whites nicely but they are rude to Koreans". But X kept going there anyway. I asked X why he still went there if the staff discriminated against him. He had no answer.

The Koreans, including X, eat together in the cafeteria, and on separate occasions, individual non-Korean Asian co-workers asked if they could join the table at lunch, but were told politely, "Sorry, but this table is Korean-only". It wasn't like it was a whole group of non-Koreans trying to crash the Korean table, it was just one person at a time asking if it was ok if he joined them. But the answer, though apologetic, was always no.

When I asked the non-Korean Asian co-workers how they felt about being turned down like that, they said the had no complaints. One person said he respected the right of any group to have their own space. After all, blacks, Latinos, or any ethnic group for that matter, have their own social group, and other people respect their 'safe space'. I thought that was a reasonable thing he said.

Then one day I saw a white co-worker eating with the group of Koreans. They seemed to accept him readily, and were laughing and gravitating to him, the center of attention. So I asked X what the deal was with that? Why were other Asians turned away but the white guy accepted? X laughed nervously and said something lame, like he considered the white guy just as Korean as any of them. Well, that white guy doesn't even speak Korean or have more exposure to Korean culture than any other non-Korean co-worker. X confessed that the group invited the white guy to join them. He was 'ashamed' only because I pointed out his contradictions, but not repentent. It just blows my mind that people can hold such blatant double standards and not in any way see the irony and unfairness of their actions.