March 24th, 2019
(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: email@example.com
It is easy to be disappointed at this response coming from a liberal administration, one that was born out of the heroic monthslong protests that resulted in the impeachment and removal of the deeply corrupt and authoritarian President Park Geun-hye. Yet polling reveals the dispiriting reason why the Moon administration is at least partially pandering to anti-refugee sentiments: The issue potentially poses the greatest threat to the administration’s stability yet, as it strikes at the foundation of its support, namely young voters, women, and the middle class.
In a recent survey, conducted by Hankook Research, 56 percent of those surveyed opposed admitting the Yemeni refugees, while only 24 percent supported letting them in. But women objected more strongly than men (61 percent to 51 percent), respondents in their 20s (70 percent) and 30s (66 percent) objected the most among all age groups, and middle-income households (62 percent) expressed the strongest objections against admitting the refugees.
This is a surprising result, as women, the young, and the affluent are groups generally associated with more generosity toward migrants and refugees. Yet on the ground, grotesque marriages between progressive principles and Islamophobia abound. One might expect, for example, that South Korean feminists newly energized from a highly successful #MeToo campaign would express solidarity with the vulnerable refugees. Instead, many feminists reinforce myths that Muslim refugees are potential rapists, drawing from a mixture of real and fake news from Europe.
In late July and early August, one of the trending hashtags on Korean-language Twitter was #제주도여성실종사건 (“Missing Women in Jeju-do”), pointing to a string of six women supposedly found dead in Jeju in the past two months and blaming the refugees. (The claim turned out to be largely imagined; there were only five cases, two had been made up and three were accidental deaths.) One tweet that received more than 5,000 retweets reads: “As a Jeju resident, I’m [expletive] nervous. There was a note saying they will kill women at the library next to my school. All I see around me are refugees and the Chinese. It’s only been two months, but there are six women found dead.” In addition to the “Missing Women” hashtag, the tweet also has the hashtag #제주도여성안전권보장하라 (“Secure safety rights for Jeju women”).