News / Asia

S. Korean Beach Becomes Focus in Debate Over ‘Lawbreaking’ Foreigners

South Korean vacationers swim on Haeundae beach in Busan, South Korea, August 8 , 2010.
South Korean vacationers swim on Haeundae beach in Busan, South Korea, August 8 , 2010.
TEXT SIZE - +
SEOUL — Police in South Korea's second largest metropolitan area are blaming foreigners, mainly Asian migrant workers, for committing an increasing number of crimes on one of the country's most popular beaches.
 
The police station at Haeundae beach has sent a letter to 1,600 companies in the Busan area asking for their help in preventing their foreign employees from breaking the law.  
 
The letter, dated July 10, asserts that during the summer vacation season foreigners “who drink and sleep in the park near the beach” are causing “many problems.” The letter also acknowledges that cultural misunderstandings may be exacerbating the situation.
 
A policeman at the Haeundae beach station denied any unfounded discrimination against foreigners explaining there are “many cases” involving foreigners. He spoke to VOA News on condition he not be named.  
 
South Korea is largely ethnically homogeneous, but the government has been pushing to embrace multiculturalism with more than 500,000 foreign workers legally in the country. Critics say the government still has policies that unfairly target foreigners, such as mandatory HIV and drug tests for foreign English teachers.
 
Beach Worries

On South Korea’s popular southeast coast, long-time visitors to Haeundae beach say they have noticed an increase in the number of foreigners in recent years. That is due, in part, police say, to busloads of migrant workers being dropped off at the beach by their companies during their summer holiday break.
 
An official at the National Police Agency, who did not want to be named, denied a report by the Busan Ilbo that officers in Busan had asked the hundreds of companies employing foreigners to keep them away from the 1.5 kilometer-long beach at the southeastern end of the city, one of South Korea's most popular destinations for families and students during the holiday season.
 
The police have printed materials for foreigners in Chinese, Vietnamese, Bahasa Indonesia and English for distribution in the Busan area, home to 4.4 million people, explaining how “cultural differences” can lead to them being arrested.  
 
A separate advisory, circulated by the Human Resources Development Service of Korea to companies and posted online, alerts foreigners about the punishments for sexual assault and molestation convictions. It also warns against littering, public urination, rowdy behavior, damaging nature and taking photographs of people on the beach without their permission. It notes these same rules apply to South Korean citizens as well.
 
The incidents appear to be sensitive matter in Busan. Police, the city government and rights groups representing migrant workers in the area all declined requests for on-the-record interviews this week.

Foreigners Arrested
 
The Yonhap news agency says a Bangladeshi and a Vietnamese national on Monday were apprehended for allegedly molesting teenaged girls, while a Burmese was detained after he was accused of taking close-up photographs of bikini-clad beach-goers.

During the previous week, police say they arrested two Vietnamese and a Pakistani civil servant for secretly taking similar pictures.
 
Authorities are approaching the matter carefully for fear their “guidance activities” aimed at foreign laborers  could ignite a racism debate, writes Robert Koehler, an American, in an article titled Will the Foreigners PLEASE Stop Molesting Women at the Beach, in his popular weblog The Marmot's Hole.
 
Groups involved with migrant laborers say there may be several hundred thousand additional undocumented workers in the country.
 
Most migrant laborers in South Korea are from Thailand, the Philippines, Bangladesh and Vietnam. The majority of those legally employed work under government-to-government contracts in local industrial sectors.
 
Busan is the busiest trans-shipment port in Northeast Asia and its other flagship industries include steel and automobile parts manufacturing.

Youmi Kim also contributed to this report.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid