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Anti-Korean sentiment is present in China, Taiwan, Japan, and even within both Koreas, and stems from such issues as nationalism, politics, economic competition, cultural influences, and historical disputes. Anti-North Korean sentiment may be the strongest in Japan, South Korea, and the United States.
In China, it has only come to prominence recently, due to issues such as the 2008 Summer Olympics torch relay; which have accumulated along with other issues over the years.
In Japan, modern dislike of South Korea can be seen as a form of national rivalry; more recently this rivalry was heightened by events such as the 2002 FIFA World Cup, which was co-hosted by both nations. Other countries to have seen cases of anti-Korean sentiment in recent times include Indonesia and Italy (see below).
Korea and China have historically maintained strong ties. When Korea was annexed by Imperial Japan in 1910, it fell under Japanese influence. In China it is believed that some ethnic Koreans served in the Imperial Japanese Army whose invasion of China launched the Second Sino-Japanese War in July 1937. Adding to this sentiment is the allegation that some Koreans reportedly operated the Burma-Siam Death Railway. The Chinese referred to Koreans as Er guizi (Chinese: 二鬼子; pinyin: èr guǐzi).
At the end of World War II, North Korea, which was aligned with the Soviet bloc, became an ally of the People's Republic of China, while the PRC and the Republic of Korea did not recognize each other. During the Korean War, when China was engaged in war with South Korea and its United Nations allies, propaganda was used to indoctrinate people into hating South Korea, which was called a "puppet state" of the United States by the PRC government of the time.
From 1992 onward, after South Korea's normalization of relations with China, the relationship between the two nations gradually improved. From 2000 onward, Korean art and culture became popular within the Chinese population. Despite the improved relationship between the PRC and South Korea, looming anti-South Korean sentiments still factored in various disputes between the two countries.
Within Taiwan, some existing animosity towards Koreans amongst Taiwanese may be present as a result of the rivalry between the two states in relation to baseball. Disputes between Taiwan and Korea in the international sport competition arose numerous times. In November 2010, Taiwanese citizens protested against the disqualification of a Taekwondo athlete at the 2010 Asian Games after a Filipino referee disqualified a Taiwanese fighter, calling for a boycott on South Korean goods.
On 23 August 1992, South Korea's "Nordpolitik" (Northern diplomacy) have made it to establish a diplomatic ties with the People's Republic of China after Soviet Union. This resulted in the change in the diplomatic relationship of South Korea with the Republic of China, since it replaced anti-communist foreign policy with an effort to improve relations with other surrounding countries in the sense of geopolitics, including the People's Republic of China, in order to pressure and appease North Korea that eases the political anxiety and softens military tension in the Korean Peninsula and enables the possibility of a peaceful reunification of Korea. As normalization begun, Roh transferred diplomatic recognition from the ROC and PRC, and confiscated the property of the ROC embassy, transferring it to the PRC.
According to an official from the Korean trade office in Taipei, sales of Korean products are not very successful in Taiwan because "the Taiwanese felt very betrayed after Korea severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan and reestablished ties with China in 1992, because the people of Taiwan had seen Korea as an ally in the fight against Communism... Now because the two countries have similar export-oriented economies and focus on the same business sectors, the Taiwanese see Korea as a great rival, and think that losing to Korea would be the end of Taiwan."
In June 2012, CEO of Foxconn Terry Gou stated that he had "great esteem for Japanese (businessmen), especially those who are able to disagree with you in person and not stab you in the back, unlike the Gaoli bangzi (a racial slur for Koreans)", sparking controversy.
During the Joseon Dynasty, Wokou pirate raids on Korean soil were frequent, which would eventually form the basis of hatred between the two sides. Such tensions built up further after the Japanese annexation of Korea in 1910.
During the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake, widespread damage occurred in a region with a significant Korean population, and much of the local Japanese overreacted to rumors which spread after the earthquake. Within the aftermath of the event, there was a common perception amongst groups of far-right Japanese that ethnic Koreans were poisoning wells, eventually setting off a killing rampage against Koreans, where Japanese would use the shibboleth of ba bi bu be bo (ばびぶべぼ) to distinguish ethnic Koreans from Japanese, as it was assumed that Koreans would be unable to pronounce the line correctly, instead as [pa, pi, pu, pe, po]. All people who failed the test were killed, which caused many ethnic Chinese , also unable to correctly pronounce the shibboleth, to be indiscriminately killed in large numbers. Other shibboleths used were "jū-go-en, go-ji-ssen" (15円 50銭, 15 yen, 50 sen) and "gagigugego" (がぎぐげご), where Japanese people pronounce initial g as [ɡ] and medial g as [ŋ] (such a distinction is dying out in recent years), whereas Koreans pronounce the two sounds as [k] and [ɡ] respectively.
Much of the anti-Korean sentiment present today however deal with contemporary attitudes. During the 2002 FIFA World Cup, Japanese and Korean supporters clashed with one another, while Japanese media reported the conduct of Korean spectators in a negative fashion. Both sides were also known to post racist messages against each other on online bulletins. There were also disputes regarding how the event was to be hosted, as a result of the rivalry between the two nations. The territorial dispute over Liancourt Rocks also fuels outrage within far-right groups. Manga Kenkanryu (often referred to as Hating the Korean Wave) by Sharin Yamano discusses these issues while making many other arguments and claims against Korea.
Zainichi Koreans in Japan are also publicly perceived to be a nuisance and are seen as likely to cause trouble and start riots, a view shared by former Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara. A Zainichi organisation, Chongryon, is commonly accused of providing funding and material to North Korea and indoctrinating the Zainichi Korean population to actively hate Japan.
Right-wing groups in Japan today still commonly target ethnic Koreans living within Japan. One such group, known as Zaitokukai, is organized by members on the Internet, and is known to be responsible for leading street demonstrations against Korean schools.
There is also much concern in Japan regarding North Korea and its nuclear and long-range missile capabilities, as a result of missile tests in 1993, 1998 and 2006 and an underground nuclear test in 2006. There are also controversies regarding North Korean abductions of Japanese, where Japanese citizens were abducted by North Korean agents between 1977 and 1983.
The Korean Wave, or the exportation of South Korean pop culture, has created some resentment among pockets of Japanese society. Many Japanese citizens with conservative views and some right-wing nationalist groups have organized anti-Korean Wave demonstrations via 2channel. On 9 August 2011, more than 2,000 protesters demonstrated in front of Fuji TV's headquarters in Odaiba, Tokyo against the broadcasting of Korean dramas. Earlier, in July 2011, well-known actor Sousuke Takaoka was fired from his agency, Stardust Promotion, for tweeting against the influx of Korean soaps. The general perception of Koreans on 2channel is negative, and board members often reference stereotypes of Koreans, such as the use of dogs in Korean cuisine.
According to a 2014 BBC World Service Poll, Japanese people alike hold the largest anti-North Korean sentiment in the world, with 91% negative views of North Korea's influence, and with only 1% positive view making Japan the third country with the most negative feelings of North Korea in the world, after South Korea and the United States.
Some South Korean men take sex tourism trips to Mongolia, often as clients of South Korean-run businesses in Mongolia, has also sparked anti-Korean sentiment among Mongolians, and is said to be responsible for the increasing number of assaults on South Korean nationals in the country.
The participation of conscripted Korean soldiers serving under the Japanese Empire's flag in the Japanese occupation of the Philippines in the World War II has caused some Filipinos, especially those from the older generations, to associate the Koreans with atrocities committed during the war.
In the recent years, there has been an increasing number of Koreans migrating to the Philippines. Although Koreans are generally welcomed to the country there has been some concerns. One concern is that many Korean migrants refuse to fully assimilate. Koreans continue to prefer to consume Korean products even if a local counterpart is available. It was reported that tour operators in Cebu do not benefit from Korean tourists because they are barred by Korean companies, thus, only Korean travel agencies solely benefit from the tourist market. There have been complaints of rowdy behavior by Koreans in the country and Koreans are the number one violator of immigration laws according to the Philippine Bureau of Immigration.
During the era of the Soviet Union, ethnic Koreans in the Russian Far East were subject to deportations under the national delimitation policy, with the majority of Koreans relocating to Soviet republics in Central Asia.
The deportation was preceded by a typical Soviet scenario of political repression: falsified trials of local party leaders accused of insurrection, accusations of plans of the secession of the Far Eastern Krai, local party purges, and articles in Pravda about the Japanese espionage in the Far East.
The resettlement plans were revived with new vigor in August 1937, ostensibly with the purpose of suppressing "the penetration of the Japanese espionage into the Far Eastern Krai". This time, however, the direction of resettlement was westward, to Soviet Central Asia. From September to October 1937, more than 172,000 Soviet Koreans were deported from the border regions of the Russian Far East to Kazakh SSR and Uzbek SSR (the latter including Karakalpak ASSR).
Following North Korea's heavy re-militarization and a series of missile tests, Americans were conditioned to fear a possible attack by a "rogue state" such as North Korea. In United States President George W. Bush's State of the Union Address on January 29, 2002, he described North Korea as a part of the "Axis of evil". Following the development of the nuclear program of North Korea and the 2006 North Korean nuclear test, the United States imposed UN sanctions on North Korea. These economic sanctions are very unlikely to be lifted by the United States due to North Korea's noncompliance with the six-party talk agreements.
From 1988 until 2008, and since November 2017, North Korea has been designated a state sponsor of terrorism for supporting Hamas and Hezbollah against Israel, their role in the murder of Kim Jong-nam, supporting dictator Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian Civil War, close relationships with Iran, and the suspicious death of Otto Warmbier.
The Los Angeles riots of 1992 were partially motivated by Anti-Korean sentiment among African-Americans. Ice Cube's song "Black Korea" which would later be accused of inciting racism was written in response to the death of 15-year-old African-American Latasha Harlins, who was shot and killed by Korean-American store owner Soon Ja Du on March 16, 1991, as well as the preponderance of Korean grocery stores in primarily black neighborhoods. The event resulted in the mass ransacking and destruction of Korean-American owned stores in Los Angeles by groups of young African-Americans.
In Indonesia, Anti-Korean sentiment emerged in the 2000s. The emergence of anti-Korean sentiment is caused by several factors, such as plastic surgery and atheism in South Korea. Some Indonesians call Koreans "plastic". This stereotype arises because of the popularity of plastic surgery in South Korea. This stereotype has strengthened since the death of the former member of Shinee, Jonghyun. In addition, there are assumptions that Korean drama lovers are infidels and people of Korea always committing adultery.
In early 2020, a leading Italian music school banned all East Asian students from attending classes due to coronavirus fear, with South Koreans the largest nationality being affected. South Korean students also describe being barred from the building and being mocked by other students because of their origin. In addition, some South Korean residents have reported fear of leaving their homes amid rising incidents of discrimination and mockery, and others considered leaving Italy because they could not "stay in a place that hates us".
There are a variety of derogatory terms referring to Korea. Many of these terms are viewed as racist. However, these terms do not necessarily refer to the Korean people as a whole; they can also refer to specific policies, or specific time periods in history.