You may have heard of the case of a Mr. Hussein, who during the summer pursued a criminal case for slander against a Korean man who called him various racial slurs on a bus. This week that man became the first Korean to be indicted for using racist language. I’m a little uncertain how to translate the charge — can any reader explain what 모욕죄 is and how it differs from 명예휘손?


Racist RemarksFor the first time, a man has been indicted for saying racially discriminatory things to a foreigner.

The case has became a marker for the continued existence of racial discrimination against those on the margins of our already multi-racial society.

Kim Seon-jung reports.


This is Bonojit Hussein, an Indian who has been a research professor for two years a domestic university.

In July he was on a bus when a Korean began insulting him for no reason.

[Interview:Bonojit Hussein, Sungkonghoe University research professor]
“He called me dirty, smelly, an Arab, and even insulted my friend by calling her a whore.”

The insults and verbal continued for over 10 minutes, and in the end he went to the police with the help of his Korean friend.

But the attitude of the police was shocking as they refused to believe he was a professor.

[Interview:Bonojit Hussein, Sungkonghoe University research professor]
“The police officer spoke very kindly to the Koreans but spoke to me in banmal.”

Finally, Mr. Hussein filed a petition with the Human Rights Commission (국가인권위원회) after the police made clear they had no desire to punish.

Prosecutors have indicted the man, who is in his 30s, with criminal insult (모욕죄) on the theory that racist language can constitute such.

[Interview:Hwang Pil-gyu, lawyer]
“I believe that there must be investigations of both the laws which said this was not discrimination and other laws which are themselves discriminatory and foment prejudice.”

This was not Mr. Hussein’s first experience of racial discrimination.

He expressed his sincere hope that this incident be a way for Koreans to change their perspective.

Here’s a more detailed report.

India-born professor Hussein, who with the arrest by Bucheon prosecutors of 31-year old Mr. Park on charges of making racially discriminatory remarks became responsible for the country’s first-ever such arrest, has expressed frustration with the handling of the incident.

After the arrest became public, Prof. Hussein said, “during the police investigation we were encouraged to reach a settlement, and Mr. Park then started to verbally assault me again while the police simply watched. If I had been a white person this would have never happened.” He added, “this is not about punishing Mr. Park. Koreans should use this case as a way to think about the racial double standard that exists between whites and non-whites.”

On the afternoon of July 10th Prof. Hussein was speaking with a Korean friend named Han while on bus number 52 to Guro Station. Suddenly from behind him he heard someone say “hey you, you filthy dog-XX” and when Prof. Hussein turned around he was faced with a man wearing a suit who said, “where are you from? you stinking XX.” Thinking he was drunk Prof. Hussein ignored him, but the man continued by saying in English, “where are you from?” and repeating, “you Arab, you Arab.”

Ms. Han, the Korean friend next to him, asked, “why are you doing this?” to which the man responded, “what are you? You’re like a Chosun X, aren’t you?” Prof. Hussein asked him in English, “what’s the matter?” and the man reacted with “you Arab”, held up his hands and began insults in English. Ms. Han stood up from her seat, turned up her collar and suggested going to the police, after which the man continued insulting her and they got off near the Bucheon Jungbu Police Station and a woman in her 40s offered to be a witness at the police station.

Prof. Hussein, “similar things have happened to me in the past but I was always able to stand it. One time I was asleep and wound up at the bus terminal, where the bus driver kicked me awake.” A member of Konggam, the public interest lawyer’s association, said, “this incident shows that racism continues to be given tacit acceptance.”

Prof. Hussein graduated from Delhi University in India with a degree in modern history and enrolled in a master’s degree program at Sungkonghoe University in 2007, where he was hired as a research professor the next year at the same time he graduated. Because Korean law does not recognize racial discrimination as a crime, he pursued this case as one of personal insult, and filed a petition for reforms with the National Human Rights Commission.

This piece basically goes over the same ground but has somewhat more legal explanation.

Korea Sees First-Ever Prosecution for Racist Remarks
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