Main Gate of Seoul National University, South Korea (Image: Public Domain)

Open Letter to the Student Who Harassed Me

by

Editor’s Note:

The following is an open letter from Professor Olga Fedorenko, who teaches anthropology at Seoul National University, one of South Korea’s most prestigious schools.

The letter provides a glimpse into the racism and misogyny experienced by a white female foreigner from her own perspective. 

It presents the reader with intriguing questions: In what ways are “foreigners” stereotyped and ‘otherized’ in South Korean society? Are the experiences different for non-Korean men versus women? For people of color? To what extent did the problem result from cultural miscommunication — different norms of acceptable behavior, language barriers? And to what extent did it stem from a misogynistic, racist attitude of entitlement that some South Koreans are perceived to exhibit? 

Here is the letter in full, edited only for clarity: 

*

You approached me around 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 5, when I was walking on my own in a dark, isolated street across from Hoam Faculty House.

You were holding out your cell phone and pointing at something on the screen. I thought you were an international student, looking for directions. So I stopped, willing to help.

You, however, were Korean, pointing some dictionary page at me. You wanted me to tell you how to pronounce the word “coincidence.” I wondered if it was a really awkward pickup line — it was dark and you might not have seen that I was not your peer.

I told you that I didn’t want to talk to you. It was a weird request, the street was poorly illuminated, and there was no one around. But you insisted, using a mixture of Korean and broken English.

When I finally understood that what you wanted was a free English lesson, I told you that no, I will not do that. You cannot just come up to any foreigner and ask random language questions. That is weird.

I turned around to walk away, but the word “weird” really upset you. You started yelling at me and your body language got aggressive. At that point I became worried that if you saw where I lived, you might become a future problem. I asked you to leave me alone or else I would call a security guard. I hoped you would run away the moment I mentioned security. I was really tired after a long day and just wanted to go home.

But you didn’t run away. Instead, you got even more agitated and swore at me in Korean. So I called the security and walked to the main street to wait somewhere where I was at least visible, in case you become violent. You were doing an odd dance around me; seemingly walking away, but then coming back mumbling things that I couldn’t make out. I felt harassed and extremely unsafe.

Then, a Korean woman came up to me and asked if I was okay.

I said no, and explained to her that you were harassing me. She was joined by two other women and three of them tried to reason with you. You calmed down a bit but still got agitated as you talked to them.

I was astonished to hear that this whole situation was actually my fault — I apparently embarrassed you by refusing to engage with you. “Don’t all foreigners do small talk? That’s what they do in American movies,” you said.

To my utter disbelief, I think the three women even apologized to you on my behalf.

At some point I did interfere to say that no woman owes you attention. You cannot approach foreign women like that and demand that they answer some random questions on a dark, isolated street. Well, at least that’s what I meant to say, not sure how well it came off in Korean. I was stressed, angry, and a little scared.

The security guard appeared, some more talking occurred. You mentioned you were a computer science student at our university. Everyone eventually went his and her way. The security guard walked me home because I was afraid you would follow me to take revenge for your “embarrassment.”

When I got home, I was anxious, frustrated, outraged — and yes, scared. I wondered how many other Korean men feel entitled to my attention, for English explanations or whatever; how many of them lurk on campus; how many of them will yell at me — and worried that some might only yell, whereas others may become physically violent. I called a friend in New York who was in disbelief over the situation and told me to call the police. For your information, that is what people in North America do when harassed by strangers—they do not engage in small talk.

I did not call the police. Although, when I shared this story the next day at school with my students and colleagues, a few people suggested that I do.

Instead, I decided to write you this letter and make it public, to turn this incident into a teachable moment about sexism, foreigner harassment, and the wrongheadedness of racial stereotypes. While I am not into small talk with strangers who approach me on dark streets, I am more than willing to discuss societal issues in a public forum.

In fact, I feel it is my duty as an SNU professor to educate you about why your actions toward me were absolutely unacceptable. While my experience at SNU, since I started here in September 2015, has been overwhelmingly positive, and while I have not experienced such unseemly behavior from anyone else in our academic community, that such an appalling incident could happen on our campus makes this public letter necessary.

I see your behavior as sexist, because you would not approach an unknown white man with your English-tutoring requests at 9 p.m. in an isolated area. I also see it as sexist, because I am reminded of the incidents reported in the media — in South Korea,  but in other places as well — of women being yelled at, harassed, and assaulted by men when women reject their unwelcome advances. This has been criticized as “rape culture” — a culture of misogyny embedded in society that institutionalizes men’s entitlement and violence against women.

I also see your behavior as driven by dangerous racial stereotypes, because you clearly did not see me as a human being. You stereotyped me as a white female foreigner, which for you meant that I was American, available to respond, eager to engage in small talk, and who knows what else (all wrong!!). And you got angry and aggressive when I refused to perform the role you tried to impose on me. While stereotypes might seem to offer a convenient handle on reality, they are often wrong and frequently oppressive to those stereotyped.

So what I want to tell you is this. You are not entitled to my attention just because I am visibly non-Korean and you wish to learn the pronunciation of some English word. Or for any other reason. The only time when you can demand my attention is when you are a student in my classroom, or when you come for my office hour. In fact, I recommend you take my class, Globalizing Korea, where we, among other topics, examine racial discrimination and problematic stereotypes of other cultures.

Our campus is increasingly international these days and my open letter is not to dissuade you from making foreign friends. In fact, I strongly suggest you make an effort and meet your international peers. That is probably the best way to get rid of narrow-minded stereotypes.

It is fine to approach a foreign woman — respectfully, politely, preferably in a public place when other people are around. It is not even that problematic in the bigger picture to ask for pronunciation of some random word. (While acceptable during the day in a public place, it is still a strange behavior; the appropriate way to learn pronunciation is from an online dictionary, an English class, or a professional English teacher.)

What is truly the most frightening thing about this experience is your entitled attitude — becoming aggressive when someone does not want to talk to you. You are not entitled to anyone’s attention, even if your motivations are benign.

Each woman belongs to herself, and strangers do not owe you English lessons, cultural consultations, or small talk. Any person you approach — male, female, Korean, or non-Korean — needs to be respected, even if they do not respond as you would wish.

I hope I have explained to you how wrong your behavior was. I hope you and others can learn from this regrettable incident. Sadly, when I talked about my misadventure to other foreign women, they shared their own stories of being harassed by entitled men.

There is a problem here and we must address it.

We must address it because it is a women’s equality issue, because it is a human rights issue, because without addressing it SNU cannot become a truly global, diverse university.

Olga Fedorenko

Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Seoul National University

This letter has been reprinted with permission from the writer. The open letter appeared originally here, in both Korean and English.

Cover Image: The main gate of Seoul National University (Public Domain)

46 Comments

  1. This is not racist. White people are not marginalized in Korea. White people do not suffer from systemic discrimination anywhere in the world, particularly not in Korea. In fact, systemic discrimination in favor of whites benefits white people in Korea.

    It is surely misogynist. Men have been demanding free labor from women for thousands of years.

    • White people do benefit from many priviledges in South Korea. But I’m not so sure you can say that there is no racism involved in this. Perhaps its a matter of semantics, and maybe your emphasis on ‘systemic’ is crucial here, but being pre-judged and treated a certain way because of your perceived racial identity could be considered at least a racialized, if not racist situation. Plus, constantly being treated as an outsider and considered as not really part of the mainstream society is a form of marginalization, even there are more priviledged manifestations of this. Finally, they may be a minority, but there are some Koreans who dislike, distrust, and discriminate against all foreingers, people of specific races (including white), and people of specific countries (ie. USA). Again, not trying to whine that white people are treated just as poorly as others (ie. southeast Asians or Africans), but do feel like there is a certain ‘dehumanization’ involved in the treatment of foreingers of all races, though that is manifested differently based on perceived nationality, race, gender, age, class, etc.

    • So every time an older man has seen my white face on the train and began renting about how foreigners are taking all of their money and jobs and how they need to learn Korean if they are going to live here isn’t because of my white face? I knew, because I can understand quite a bit of Korean. My white face just merely reminded him that he hadn’t publicly ranted about it in a while. Or what about the time I was denied a free sample of some perfume because I wasn’t Korean? Or the time when I renewed my spousal visa and the officer demanded to see my husband, to verify he is Korean even though he had our family registry in his hand? Or when we sent me with a letter for my husband to fill out, verifying that I am indeed his wife, in addition to the marriage certificate and family registry? Or the other immigration officer who doesn’t even say hello, just immediately “Where is your husband?” when he isn’t required to be with me to renew my visa? No racism cannot happen to white people. Anywhere. Ever. And all of these examples that have happened to me wasn’t because of my white face. It was because of my non-Korean face. I have heard similar stories from foreigners of every skin tone.

      • One of the women handing them protectively held her hands over it and said it isn’t for foreigners. Only Koreans. They were handing it out to every other woman there, not asking if any of them were Korean. Just judging by their face. So yeah, I thought it was absurd but it falls squarely in the dictionary definition of racism, no?

      • Wow yeah what if?!?!

        To the extent that anti-black sentiment exists in Korea, it started with the white rednecks who control the U.S. military occupation. They have taught their racism to Koreans.

      • Are you absolutely 100% sure it’s because you’re a foreigner?? Are you absolutely sure someone hasn’t booked a cab in advance ahead of you??? Because that’s how things are done in the city I stay in. Don’t accuse unless you know that for an absolute fact. Until you know it for a fact, everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt.

      • A thirty minute period and at least 20 empty taxis. In addition to that three taxis did pull over but refused service when they saw I was a foreigner. One cab driver did offer to take me but I had to pay 20,000 KW instead of the actual 8,000 KW. I also hear that years ago taxi drivers bringing foreigners from the airport in Inchon would stop half way to Seoul and extort more money from their riders. In addition to all that, the aggressive driving, rudeness, holding up traffic to stop and use a public toilet, and blocking a lane to wait for customers is the norm here. But it’s alright, I got something for rude pushy taxi drivers: I cut them off in traffic, wait patiently at stop lights when most Koreans would make way for them, come to a full stop at stop signs, and allow all pedestrians to pass in front of me while the taxi driver honks his horn behind me. I wait for the day when a cab driver will exit his car and approach me…….

      • Haha, well you have a handle on the situation I guess!
        If it was me, I’d get to know one or two cab drivers and just call them all the time. I don’t think in terms of discrimination per se – I don’t care why someone is mean and does what they do. I just think in terms that this guy (or girl) is an asswipe and it’s better that I know it beforehand, so I can get away from them. And it’s safer. People who do that (discriminate, or act badly to you), are indirectly doing you a favour, so you can get away from them. It’s actually worse to be stuck with people who don’t like you and are pretending to like you. Anyway, cheers.

      • you’re not marginalized. you enjoy a great deal of privilege in korea. it’s obvious that your korean language skill is so poor that you don’t know how to use kakao taxi, which would solve your problem immediately.

      • I was marginalized that night when I tried to get a cab. But in general I don’t worry about being marginalized. If someone is rude or inconsiderate to me I may or may not respond but most of the time I don’t dwell on it. My Korean language skills are just as bad as my electronic media skills. But that is irrelevant to the issue of being discriminated against when trying to get a cab for being a foreigner. But since you mention privilege I am sure that I receive many comps and benefits that your average middle aged Korean male doesn’t receive. On the downside, I don’t have this privilege when entering into a commercial contract. Newly arrived foreigners in Korea have to enter into contracts for housing and services and are often cheated. No privilege there. I am probably discriminated against or taken advantage of a lot but don’t notice it. I learned this in talking to Korean friends and their laughing at my naivety. No privilege there. But this is all just lessons to master. I enjoy being here because of the sense of self and knowledge of struggle the older generation of Koreans have. But they, their greatest generation, are leaving. And with them will go their disdain for privilege.

      • “I came to a country where I can’t speak the language, and the business world is so unfair to me waaahhhhhh”

        Go back to your safe space in Idaho

      • “I’m a tough guy who doesn’t believe in safe spaces”
        – a giant crybaby who didn’t get to ride in the taxi he wanted and writes endlessly about it on the internet

      • I don’t see internet discussions as win or lose. But when someone cannot offer counter arguments or reasoned debate and descends to name calling…..I take that as a win for me. Thank you for your ceding victory to me. Feel free to post if you are feeling lonely again.

  2. Olga, I’m sorry that this happened to you, but I also think this is something that is now being blown way out of proportion. I’ve also taught in Korea for many years as an English teacher. I’ve taught all ages from Kindergarten to the elderly, and dealt with many similar situations – from both genders. I understand that there are cultural differences between Koreans and those from other cultures. But as professional teachers and indeed – perceived pillars of society in Korea, it’s our duty as teachers to help those that need our help. I would have suggested telling him you’re in a hurry and exchanged e-mail addresses, so that there could have been a clarification of what *exactly* was being asked. You wanted to get home and you were not comfortable there in a dimly lit environment, so answering this student’s question later in an e-mail from the safety of home would have solved the problem, and that would be the end of it. And you could have said ‘no free lessons’ as well in a nice way. It would have been a perfect exit for you. But what happened instead was totally unacceptable from both parties. From your letter you apparently were arrogant to the student and condescended towards him. You projected your own fears of vulnerability onto him and then said things that made him angry. He in turn, was rude to you and followed you – yelling obscenities. Yes, he was wrong for ‘harrassing’ you and should have walked away and not said anything rude to you. But you were quite wrong for behaving rudely to him first and not communicating nicely and effectively, your hurried need for getting home. You came off as arrogant and egotistical, when you simply could have solved his request through an e-mail. What makes this worse, is that you now project your own cultural biases about racism, and sexism onto Korean culture, which is offensive, awful, and disrespectful. The Korean way of doing things has a 5000 year old tradition. You have to be respectful of that, even if you don’t agree with it. And instead of diffusing and neutralizing this incident in a professional and respectful way, you blow it up in anger with your own ugly prejudices, and yet you don’t even know this individual at all. In your own words you write: “I see your behavior as sexist, because you would not approach an unknown white man with your English-tutoring requests at 9 p.m. in an isolated area. I also see it as sexist, because I am reminded of the incidents reported in the media — in South Korea, but in other places as well — of women being yelled at, harassed, and assaulted by men when women reject their unwelcome advances. This has been criticized as “rape culture” — a culture of misogyny embedded in society that institutionalizes men’s entitlement and violence against women.
    I also see your behavior as driven by dangerous racial stereotypes, because you clearly did not see me as a human being. You stereotyped me as a white female foreigner, which for you meant that I was American, available to respond, eager to engage in small talk, and who knows what else.” OLGA, HOW DO YOU KNOW ANYTHING AT ALL ABOUT HIM OR HOW HE THINKS???? The actual truth is you don’t know what is going on inside his head at all. You don’t know how he thinks, or feels,or what his opinions are, because you’ve never even had a conversation with him. You are totally pre-judging him, and yet you don’t know him at all. In fact, your statements sound so absolute and so sure in your demonization of him that they paint you as the racist and the sexist towards Korean men. Even worse, you have published this open letter, which is an even more shameful act for a professor to do. You had the opportunity the de-escalate this, which is what a real professional educator would have done. Yet you have used your position to try to impose your own personal values on a culture where you are essentially an *accommodated* guest. You are in HIS country, and it is you who have to respect the customs and laws there whether you agree with them or not. He was likely younger than you, and instead of offering guidance to correct him as he obviously needed it, you arrogantly dismissed him and now have demonized him publicly. Are you trying to shame him publicly so that it causes him to commit suicide? As an English teacher who also teaches Korean students and adults, I believe your actions in escalating this to the public are quite deplorable and completely unprofessional. I don’t think you are fit to be an educator at a University if you cannot separate your personal attitudes from your professional position. You are in Korea to teach to the best of your ability, and to neutralize any *issues* in a professional manner. You are not to be dismissive to any students and openly call them ‘sexist’ or ‘racist’ while you are serving their country in a professional position of authority. If you cannot maintain and respect the boundaries between your own professional and personal conduct, then you should re-sign from your position. If I was in a supervisory position above you, I would immediately fire you for using this incident as a platform for your own inflammatory attitudes, biases, and sexist and racist views and attitudes towards Korean men, and for publicly embarassing your employer – the University, which was totally unprofessional and unacceptable. All teachers deal with this from time to time. It’s inevitable. It goes with the job. You need to accept it, and not over-react. I believe your contract states that you cannot publicly do anything to embarrass your employer. Should this happen again – please solve it privately and with some self respect for yourself and for the student with whom you had the issue with. That would have been the classy, ethical, moral, right, and professional way to handle it. Good luck. I’m afraid you’re going to need it.

    • Wow. As a woman who is also white, I have had random Koreans ask me for random English help through my ten years living here. And I can say, I agree entirely with Olga. During the day, in public places, I am more than happy to pronounce something for you. It is bothersome but it is the fastest way to get the situation over with. However, I have also had men follow me into alleys at night while I was on my way home. Regardless of their intent, it is frightening. Sometimes they want quick English help. Sometimes a language partner or tutor. Sometimes they want a date. Most often, my Korean is better than their English.
      Sometimes my Korean phrasing is odd. And most often, when I say I have a husband and am not interested in meeting, they call me a liar. One demanded, in a dark alley right by my house, for me to call my husband. Because he was now my boyfriend, he said. I was afraid to go in my building. I was afraid to show him where I lived. I was afraid he would follow me inside. I was afraid he would push himself in my apartment. Luckily, my husband was home but he was on the phone. I was afraid that the man would hurt me and my husband. He refused to believe me, he was verbally aggressive. After 5 long minutes of my broken Korean and his few English words, he left me, loudly complaining. I stood there and waited. Waited for him to walk far enough away. Waited to see if he would spy around the corner. I wished my husband would come outside to smoke a cigarette. It was past midnight, I was just getting home from tutoring across the city. So, Chris, she has no obligation to give him her contact information. She could have made it a teaching moment, but she felt unsafe. He made her feel unsafe. That is what the letter is about. Most men, when I say I have a husband, their tone is friendly and ask me some questions, regretting they didn’t meet me first. Some men get aggressive. That is wrong. For Olga, she is making it a point to choose your situations wisely. If it is dark and late, perhaps you shouldn’t approach a woman alone. If you do, and they reject your advances or request, you cannot get angry at them. Simply leave. If the student had done so, this public letter wouldn’t exist. And she is completely right. There are Facebook groups where women share a story about being harassed several times a week by random, usually Korean men, here. I have even had a Korean man, he told me, email me. He was looking for a foreign wife. He was a stranger. A complete random man. How did he get my email address? From a resume I had put online. This was last month. Please do not victim blame. I am a confident woman, willing to call the police and now have sufficient Korean abilities to get my point across if I was approached by a man at night. And yet, I still worry sometimes. My husband, a Korean man himself, worries about me walking at night. I hope Olga’s letter helps. I hope it reaches to people online and make them take a moment and consider their actions.

      • Stefanie, in your situation as you describe, the guy gave you definite reason for your being concerned. He didn’t listen to you when you said you had a husband, and that you weren’t interested in meeting him. So you have every right to feel that way, and be concerned, because the guy gave you reason to.

        And any woman that experiences this would have the right to feel the exact same way, and do what she felt was necessary to remove herself from that situation.

        I totally get that. I totally empathize with any woman that it’s happened to.

        And yes there are tons of jerks out there – both men and women who will act this way, and who will stalk, and who will not take ‘no’ for an answer.

        This has happened to me as well from both men and women in Korea.

        But, this was not the *reality* in Olga’s case. There was no actual evidence that this guy was a jerk until after she said something that he felt was an insult to him. Your situations and my situations were ‘definite’ and ‘unambiguous’ in legal and moral terms. Olga’s was not.

        In Olga’s case, she did not communicate effectively with this guy. He’s a student, and she’s a University Professor. This is the first basis for any conversation that they’re going to have. She has knowledge that he wants.
        If she had maintained total professionalism, she could have neutralized this. As a University Professor it’s expected that she would, as it’s her job, and she can do it everyday in the process of teaching. But she called him ‘weird’ and of course, he reacted negatively, as anyone would.

        Had she simply gave her e-mail to him, she likely could have made him go away. She could have answered his e-mail or she could have then blocked him.
        It was a simple fix.
        But if he kept on following her, she then had *legal reason* to ask for help, and feel uncertain, and she could have used her cellphone to call someone. But she became fearful and negative first while they were talking, and projected her fears on to him, and insulted him which he then reacted to. So legally and ethically – she inflamed this situation. This could have easily happened in a brightly lit area as easily as in a dimly lit area. She over-reacted to the dimly lit area. And she escalated this situation by using the word ‘weird’ and it went downhill from there. She unwittingly and indirectly gave him exactly the excuse he needed – if he was a jerk.

        Since he was genuinely shocked and offended, and was an actual student, and this was on the campus, it’s quite likely he was innocently asking for help, and she is now in ‘defense’ mode to try and deflect the wrongs of how she handled it.

        Consider that he said *nothing at all* that would be a direct ‘come on’ or ‘proposal’ to her.
        And since he didn’t solicit a date from her, she is not right in negatively pre-judging him.
        Once he utters the words to try and pick her up, or seduce her, then, and only then, is he *guilty as charged*, and should be treated as such.

        She needs to take responsibility for that. And no one should go walking down a dimly lit area to begin with – not because of any predatory people, but simply because you can’t see where you’re walking. True – she doesn’t have to give her contact information or bother with him. She does, however have to show some polite and common respect. She was deficient in judgment – both to go walking in a dimly lit area, and then to use a word that could be taken as an insult, and cause a fight. A lesson learned and that should have been the end of it.

        But – and this is where the evidence of her character lies – she writes a public letter accusing him of ‘racism’ and ‘sexism’ and all the ugly politically correct crap that has no basis or reference point in Korean culture or Korean society whatsoever. She’s projecting her own ugly American type biases, racism, sexism, and inflammatory attitudes – publicly – against a Korean student she’s never had a conversation with, and whom she doesn’t know, and who is likely far younger than her, and who doesn’t at all share her cultural reference point. And this is not even her country. Yet somehow she feels justified in saying this and being utterly disrespectful in the process.

        Yes, she’s entitled to feel insecure in a dimly lit place, and avoid contact with males *or females* in those places – since both genders have the same level of risk. She’s not entitled to write an open latter defaming any student, and calling him sexist, racist, etc without any proof, and when it’s her own attitudes against Korean men or maybe men in general, that seem to be a problem.

        She’s also a University professor, who is supposed to have a higher level of discipline, education, ethics, morals, class, and professional standards because of her position. She’s not supposed to publicly humiliate students, staff, etc. or write anything that would embarrass or cause harm to the University and it’s reputation.
        Yet she writes a letter at a level worthy of an angry grade school student with a crazed and zealous feminist agenda.
        So she’s now thinking only of herself and not the welfare of anyone else.
        She refuses to take responsibility for walking down the dimly lit area, for insulting a student (and who simply because he is male – deserves her fear and is at the receiving end of an insult, – which ironically…. sounds like sexism doesn’t it?).

        And she then writes a vitriolic letter accusing the guy of being sexist himself, racist etc. and indirectly attempts to force her own ideology and agenda language on Korean society, where she is a *guest* serving in a respected position. A position where she is most certainly not allowed to write such a letter disrespecting the reputation of her working conditions or University life.

        She first reacts without evidence, then secondly demonizes the other person, third, doesn’t accept responsibility for her actions, and then instead of going home and forgetting about it all, compounds the issue by publicly defaming this guy and embarrassing herself and her own credibility in the process.

        Yes, there are lots of men who are jerks out there. But they are to be addressed on an individual basis as *jerks*. And these jerks exist in all walks of life.
        And there are just as many women out there doing the same thing, although it goes un-reported mostly.
        There’s no evidence of sexism, or racism in this case, other than from her.

        She sounds unstable, and definitely sexist against men herself, and is most definitely unprofessional in her handling of this situation which should have remained a private matter.

        And she diminishes the positions of actual women out there who are being physically hurt by other men and women, and who have actual damage from it.
        She cries ‘wolf’ while other women are being proverbially ‘devoured’.
        And that’s not fair to other women.

        If she hasn’t second guessed any of her actions at all. If she can find no fault whatsoever in the way she’s handled this, then effectively she’s an unstable complainer, with no class. And she should be fired for her failure to handle this situation in an ethical, moral, discreet and professional way.

        ‘Name calling’ after the fact does not justify her actions. She’s worried about how this will be perceived, and that’s why her letter has been written.
        She knows she’s *in the wrong* and is attempting to do *damage control.*
        But a close look at the facts reveals that her character is at fault, just as much as the student, if not more.

        If I have a gun and I see someone walking down an alley, and they approach me and I decide I don’t like them, that doesn’t mean I get to be judge and jury and shoot them.
        This is the exact same sick logic.

        I hope all the publicity given to this doesn’t damage the cases and credibility of women who have real and genuine problems at the hands of real stalkers.

        Because these other women in Korea are the real victims of this stupid over-reaction.

      • I think you have made it clear that you don’t understand her situation. I was just on SNU campus last weekend. It is a maze. She demonstrated that she wanted to be kind and helpful, by checking to see if he needed directions. She found the situation uncomfortable and strange and told him. He didn’t understand and became aggressive. She even went to the main road, where he followed her. You cannot blame her for the entirety of the situation regardless of her profession. Perhaps she looks very young and he thought she was a student? We can’t know. In fact, I have told men who approach me at night that it is strange/weird, even in Korean, and they don’t care. It had happened more than once. The fact that he followed her and continued to be irate speaks volumes to me. I don’t think he wanted quick English help. Everyone knows how to find the pronunciation online. I have personally had people approach me at bus stops, on subways, waiting for the subway, and even in the bathroom at the subway station for English help. All public places, still awkward, but public. I have had old men loudly argue about my nationality, causing a huge scene and causing me to be stared at. Then when I tell them my nationality, in Korean, one of them got inches from my face, spoke broken Korean. The train came and I literally ran on it. He followed. Then followed me 2 cars down. I was afraid, shaking. I didn’t think bystanders would help me. I have had men yell at me while transferring subway lines, kicking the partition, staring daggers at me. Most are innocent questions, some are convo starters. Some are just creepy. But if I feel uncomfortable, I don’t care that I am a teacher. If I don’t feel safe, I don’t care about their feelings. If I am making someone else feel unsafe, my feelings don’t matter. He may have had innocent intentions, he might not have. I would rather be safe than sorry. . Korean women helping her is actually a huge positive to me. Usually people just pass by. While they shouldn’t have apologized to the man, I understand they were literally just trying to make him go away. Personally, I would have simply said the word for him, then walked to a public place. I am much more aware of Korean culture and attitudes here. I have a bachelor’s in it. I also know that men tend to get violent easily after a few drinks here. I don’t think he would have simply walked away though. I have offended people, usually men or ajummas, and they complain loudly but tend to walk away. This man didn’t seem to want to leave it at that, since he followed her. She may have hurt his ego but he knew it was strange to approach a random person. Koreans don’t just start talking to strangers. It isn’t culturally normal. He seriously might not have known she was a professor. I know another SNU professor there who could easily pass for a grad student. This isn’t just a racist thing though. Korean women get harassed often at bars by older men. They tend not to report it since the police usually just brush it off. I know a few women, Korean and foreign, who have been raped here. Many of them felt unsafe and uncomfortable but felt it was rude to simply leave. They all wish they had just left instead of worrying about the social repercussions. Did this man want to do something worse? We will never know. But I would much rather be having a discussion about how appropriate it is to follow people into dark streets, very common since every apartment I have lived in has necessitated such a trip, and ask them strange questions, calling on everyone to take a moment and think about how the other person may feel, than hearing about yet another woman assaulted on her way home by a stranger. FYI, just a bit if statistics. Gwanakgu, where SNU is, has the highest amount of rapes in the city. They police attribute it to the area having many female college students living alone in that area.

      • I really wish I could make paragraphs on my phone. I don’t know of why it won’t and I apologize for the difficulty of reading such a long passage. It just makes it sound like a long winded rant.

      • I’m sorry you had to go through similar incidents Stefanie. I totally understand where you’re coming from in this. I totally know what you mean. I know there are tons of incidents all over where Korean men are violating both Korean women and women foreigners. I’ve experienced the same harrassment from drunk men and women – both foreigners and Koreans. For me, I don’t generally distinguish between the two groups because a jerk is jerk, is a jerk and it doesn’t really matter where they’re from, or what their gender, age, rank, or social status is. The behaviour is the same, and it’s the behaviour I’m addressing and never them as a person, and I don’t allow to use their ‘characteristics’ to justify bad behaviour.

        If I know I’m being mistreated, or harrassed, I pause calmly for a few moments, and say nothing, and think about what I will do (though I don’t express that I’m doing this).
        99.9% of the time I stare for a long time and show no emotion at all. That creeps them out.
        And then soon everyone walks away. It’s a kind of act.

        But if I’m being harrassed and I’m forced to deal with it, then I strike out verbally or physically or both, and I make sure it’s traumatic and memorable enough for them to never forget it.

        But….I don’t actually get angry, I pretend to get angry much the way an actor does in a movie. Then they usually back off, and I laugh to myself later on about it.
        That way, I remain in a position of empowerment and happiness instead of disempowerment and fear – which causes one to make mistakes in judgement.

        Of course, I’m sorry that this happened to Olga. But if she was really thinking clearly, she could has diffused the situation. She had the power, though she didn’t see it. A ‘harrassing’ person always wants a reaction. The best thing to do is not provide what the harrasser wants.
        She’s in a position to psychologically manipulate him because he’s making a request of her. But instead, she tapped into a ‘victim’ role, and feelings of ‘playing the victim’ and then he sensed that and *ran with it*. It became the decided *script* between them, by non-verbal consensus, just the way dogs smell fear on someone – they’ll bark more and attempt to intimidate.

        I don’t take issue with her reaction to him. It’s the letter she wrote that oozes sexism, racism and all the ugly ‘all about me’ self righteousness that comes with it.
        She was very wrong to publicize a private incident and embarrass herself and humiliate him without definitive and *absolute* knowledge of his motives. It’s also an embarrassment for the University, and makes her come across as some unstable mental fruitcake that really isn’t fit to be a teacher, much less a professor, and shouldn’t be living in Korea.

        There’s no question at all that women (and men too) experience this kind of thing regularly. The effective way to combat it is to politely tell any possible harrasser that you don’t have time for contact with them right now.
        The neutral wording of this and the way it’s spoken, are the key.

        Then, if it persists, you now *for sure* know this person has a problem, and then you can deal with them in an informed and enlightened way.

        Getting emotional (scared, angry, sad, etc) with a harrasser lets the harrasser know that they’re able to ‘push your buttons’ so the best defense is to show no emotion at all. By choosing to remain ‘unpredictable’, the harrasser no information to make his or her next move, and then you have the upper hand.

        The best thing is to always stay calm and deal with things in the present moment and not use anyone else’s past rape or harrassment story as a reference point. Because that is *their story* and not yours.

        Each incident has it’s own unique details, and only by remaining calm, clear minded, and rational – a person can create their own escape from this kind of situation. By contrast – getting emotional gives the harrasser what they want, and sends the message that “oh you’re weak! haha!”, so this is the last thing you want to communicate, even if it’s what you’re feeling.

        You didn’t make a long winded rant Stefanie. Your points and details are well presented. And I agree with most everything you said.

        Olga was in ‘reaction’ mode. You can never be in ‘reaction’ mode walking into a dimly lit area. She should have carried a flashlight. It would have helped her see, and she could use it to temporarily blind or hit for defense if she needed to. Her judgement is simply ‘off’, but much more so in writing a vitriolic letter where she takes no responsibility and admits no responsibility for her actions.

        My criticism is of her attitudes in the letter, and not what happened to her, because what happened to her – happens to all of us, at one time or another, but we don’t go writing letters in public and spewing hate from it.

        The only good thing that has come of this, is that her letter has been the catalyst for a dialogue about this, but somewhere else, it has also deepened the mistrust and division between foreigners and Koreans, and that’s why I don’t like the way she handled this at all.

        People need to show more love and understanding for each other, not more prejudice, fear, bias, etc.
        That can only happen when we treat everyone equally, regardless of how creepy they appear, or make us feel sometimes.

        For me, I’ll know I’m in trouble when someone physically touches me in an unwanted way, or hits me. I don’t ever allow someones words to manipulate me, or control my reaction to them. Because if I’m like that, then they’ll always win.
        I’d rather be 100% self-directed.

    • she’s completely off her rocker.

      Sexist? Yeah.. I don’t think so. I’m a guy and I’ve had all kinds of people ask me english questions, in all kinds of places. She sounds like another attention seek special snowflake who isn’t ready to be out in the real world.

  3. Olga, I’m sorry that this happened to you, but I also think this is something that is now being blown way out of proportion. I’ve also taught in Korea for many years as an English teacher. I’ve taught all ages from Kindergarten to the elderly, and dealt with many similar situations – from both genders. I understand that there are cultural differences between Koreans and those from other cultures. But as professional teachers and indeed – perceived pillars of society in Korea, it’s our duty as teachers to help those that need our help. I would have suggested telling him you’re in a hurry and exchanged e-mail addresses, so that there could have been a clarification of what *exactly* was being asked. You wanted to get home and you were not comfortable there in a dimly lit environment, so answering this student’s question later in an e-mail from the safety of home would have solved the problem, and that would be the end of it. And you could have said ‘no free lessons’ as well in a nice way. It would have been a perfect exit for you. But what happened instead was totally unacceptable from both parties. From your letter you apparently were arrogant to the student and condescended towards him. You projected your own fears of vulnerability onto him and then said things that made him angry. He in turn, was rude to you and followed you – yelling obscenities. Yes, he was wrong for ‘harrassing’ you and should have walked away and not said anything rude to you. But you were quite wrong for behaving rudely to him first and not communicating nicely and effectively, your hurried need for getting home. You came off as arrogant and egotistical, when you simply could have solved his request through an e-mail. What makes this worse, is that you now project your own cultural biases about racism, and sexism onto Korean culture, which is offensive, awful, and disrespectful. The Korean way of doing things has a 5000 year old tradition. You have to be respectful of that, even if you don’t agree with it. And instead of diffusing and neutralizing this incident in a professional and respectful way, you blow it up in anger with your own ugly prejudices, and yet you don’t even know this individual at all. In your own words you write: “I see your behavior as sexist, because you would not approach an unknown white man with your English-tutoring requests at 9 p.m. in an isolated area. I also see it as sexist, because I am reminded of the incidents reported in the media — in South Korea, but in other places as well — of women being yelled at, harassed, and assaulted by men when women reject their unwelcome advances. This has been criticized as “rape culture” — a culture of misogyny embedded in society that institutionalizes men’s entitlement and violence against women.
    I also see your behavior as driven by dangerous racial stereotypes, because you clearly did not see me as a human being. You stereotyped me as a white female foreigner, which for you meant that I was American, available to respond, eager to engage in small talk, and who knows what else.” OLGA, HOW DO YOU KNOW ANYTHING AT ALL ABOUT HIM OR HOW HE THINKS???? The actual truth is you don’t know what is going on inside his head at all. You don’t know how he thinks, or feels,or what his opinions are, because you’ve never even had a conversation with him. You are totally pre-judging him, and yet you don’t know him at all. In fact, your statements sound so absolute and so sure in your demonization of him that they paint you as the racist and the sexist towards Korean men. Even worse, you have published this open letter, which is an even more shameful act for a professor to do. You had the opportunity the de-escalate this, which is what a real professional educator would have done. Yet you have used your position to try to impose your own personal values on a culture where you are essentially an *accommodated* guest. You are in HIS country, and it is you who have to respect the customs and laws there whether you agree with them or not. He was likely younger than you, and instead of offering guidance to correct him as he obviously needed it, you arrogantly dismissed him and now have demonized him publicly. Are you trying to shame him publicly so that it causes him to commit suicide? As an English teacher who also teaches Korean students and adults, I believe your actions in escalating this to the public are quite deplorable and completely unprofessional. I don’t think you are fit to be an educator at a University if you cannot separate your personal attitudes from your professional position. You are in Korea to teach to the best of your ability, and to neutralize any *issues* in a professional manner. You are not to be dismissive to any students and openly call them ‘sexist’ or ‘racist’ while you are serving their country in a professional position of authority. If you cannot maintain and respect the boundaries between your own professional and personal conduct, then you should re-sign from your position. If I was in a supervisory position above you, I would immediately fire you for using this incident as a platform for your own inflammatory attitudes, biases, and sexist and racist views and attitudes towards Korean men, and for publicly embarassing your employer – the University, which was totally unprofessional and unacceptable. All teachers deal with this from time to time. It’s inevitable. It goes with the job. You need to accept it, and not over-react. I believe your contract states that you cannot publicly do anything to embarrass your employer. Should this happen again – please solve it privately and with some self respect for yourself and for the student with whom you had the issue with. That would have been the classy, ethical, moral, right, and professional way to handle it. Good luck. I’m afraid you’re going to need it.

  4. While I think she is spot on about the way in which foreigners are sometimes viewed in Korea, I take issue with her condescending tone that, at least to me, betrays a neo-colonialist attitude. See, for example, the following from her letter: “I called a friend in New York who was in disbelief over the situation and told me to call the police. For your information, THAT IS WHAT PEOPLE IN NORTH AMERICA DO WHEN HARASSED BY STRANGERS—they do not engage in small talk (emphasis mine).” Yes, we Koreans are aware that people in North America do things differently, but to lecture a Korean student on the way things are done in North America is but one example of her belief, perhaps even subconscious, that things in North America are done better. I point this out because I have had numerous encounters of this sort in the States: men yelling at me because I didn’t want to engage their chit-chat, men following me home in the dark to intimidate me, men sexually assaulting me on subways, et cetera. I would NEVER think to lecture them about the way things are done back in Korea, because being from Korea does not in any way carry cachet. The fact that she can is a clear demonstration of the power her provenance carries in Korea, and to deny that is to be less than aware of one’s situation and surroundings. Second, I would not think to assume that all of those men did what they did because of my race (though many of them, I think, might have harbored some assumptions about Asian women or entertained some form of the despicable “Asian fetish.”). Wondering, to paraphrase the professor’s words, how many Korean men feel entitled to her attention because she is foreigner is unproductive and essentializing. All I ask is that when bringing up these cogent issues, one consider one’s relative position to power instead of working from the monolithic assumption that all women’s positions are the same at every spatiotemporal locus and to be mindful of the privilege one otherwise enjoys (after all, she was able to voice her clear objection through a powerful platform, an act many, if not most, women of minority background without such a prestigious job do not have.).

    • Thank You, Thank You, Thank You Aeri. You said exactly the types of things I was trying to say but failed to so eloquently express in my own post. Especially about her underlying arrogance. She comes across as someone with a superiority complex, as if she’s there to ‘civilize the natives’, and ‘bring Korea into the 21st century’, and that people should cater to her every whim and attitude and be so grateful that she’s there. Korea does not need people like that. Even worse – she writes with sexist and racist accusations against a person she took a dislike to and never even had a real conversation with – in her own public letter about an incident that should have remained private. I’m afraid she stands as an example of the worst type of fearful, paranoid, arrogant, and self-serving indoctrinated radical feminist American. I’m Canadian, have taught all ages from Kindergarten to the elderly in Korea for 5 years, and it would never even occur to me to handle this matter as insensitively and as unprofessionally as she has. She should resign from her position if education is but a hollow status symbol for her. People need to love and understand each other more, not write public letters espousing hate and vitriol.

      • Just to clarify, the writer is not Anerican. She is Canadian and not a native English speaker (Russian). Your points are well taken, but she, as well, is responding to an assumption (white=native speaker=American) often present in this context that you yourself are reinforcing. Nowhere in her letter does she say she is American, but responds to that assumption.

      • Well, she’s responding to what she *believes* is his assumption about her. She has no facts, no way to know for sure. So she’s pre-judging him (prejudiced against him) in her letter. She has no proof at all that he thinks (white=native speaker=Amercan=sexy girl). Okay so she is Canadian, but the ideology of her views and attitudes did not originate in Canada, and by law, are not allowed to be practiced in Canada – or Europe. Those are contemporary extremist American views – protected by USA ‘free speech’ laws, which is why I thought she was American. She has been indoctrinated into having these views towards men, to the point that she no longer distinguishes reality before her, or remains objective towards Korean men. Ironically, the indoctrinated views she presents started innocently enough in the late 60’s in the USA, and developed into the 1970’s American equal rights/treatment for women movement (which I wholeheartedly agree with and have even promoted myself). But…..her views, assumptions and prejudices in her letter, are a distilled, twisted, extremist and radicalized version of the philosophies in that 1970’s movement. If she had behaved in Canada, as she did in Korea, she would be hauled before the Human Rights Commission and likely forced to either resign from her job, or pay a penalty of community service volunteering for Korean male students. She would also be forced to publicly apologize for the hate speech of sexism and racism she wrote towards that Korean student. I know this for a fact because I participated in a Human Rights discrimination case and even reviewed and edited the submitted documentation for government officials. The categories for hate speech and discrimination are quite clear. A truly professional educator, teacher, or professor never uses gender status to decide who she’s going to help or not help on a University campus. It wouldn’t even occur to them. They’re trained well to think in broad, expansive areas. She let irrational fears and her own ‘status conscious arrogance’ , and indoctrination against men, get the better of her, and has publicly accused the Korean man of sexist views based simply on his race – all without ever getting to know the guy or having a conversation about it. So, in actual fact, she is the sexist, and the racist in this case. In the field study of Psychology, this is a defense mechanism called ‘projection’. That’s exactly what’s happened here. She subconsciously projected her own views onto him and reversed and attacked them there, and her arrogant behaviour towards him and the manner in which she thinks she is above others, demonstrates as a text book case. She also didn’t think about the University’s reputation, her co-workers, or the feelings of that student when she published the letter. So she comes off as a self absorbed, narcissistic, angry, mentally unstable and jaded individual. And worse – whatever rude and horrible behaviour he’s guilty of (and I’m sure he is equally to blame in this after reacting to her ‘weird’ comment), is now almost legally dismissable, because of her letter. Negative thinking never gets you anywhere.

      • 1. The area the encounter took place in is not actually the campus.
        2. It was dark and at night.
        3. Regardless of if it is arrogant, arseholish or otherwise to refuse a request for a translation when you are on your own in the dark, going home from a long days work, that doesn’t give the person you refuse the right to become aggressive or offensive towards you, even if you tell them the request is strange.
        4. She didn’t use race or gender to decide who she would help. She thought someone wanted directions, not spelling help, and when it became clear the person didn’t want directions she had every right as both a) having finished work for the day. b) not being literally on campus. c) clearly not being a professor of the person who approached her d) Being in a dark and isolated environment to carry on her way home. He had the right to think in the back of his head “wow… what a ****”, no more no less.
        5. As far as I’m aware her coworkers are in solidarity with her.
        6. You are focusing on the issue of race when the far larger issue is that of misogyny… the fact that a Korean woman could suffer the same thing, feel threatened by it, but have to shrug it off as just ‘what happens’ is more of an issue. He approached her because he thought she was an English speaker, she’s not reacting to that, she’s reacting to how he reacted to her refusal in a situation (dark, at night, isolated) which could very quickly feel very threatening. Would this guy have reacted in that way towards a man in the same situation? Of course we can’t say for sure but I think not.

      • From your numbered points, let’s see what we agree disagree on:
        1) If not on campus – okay, but was it near or close enough to the campus for the man to be a student?

        2) Okay granted – it was dark.

        3) True – but depends on her words. If she called him ‘weird’, and she said this in a disparagingly to him, (and not in a neutral manner) then he has every right to feel upset and express him anger. He does not have the right, though, to physically harm her.
        She behaved like an arrogant jerk first, and he was an ass / jerk back to her. They’re both equally to blame and stupid for this.

        4) She says he extended a cell phone with the word ‘coincidence’ appearing on it. She didn’t want to help him, so she has the right to refuse him. But she does not have the right to insult him and expect that there would be no reaction to her insult. She unwittingly initiated the situation, which is a stupid thing to do in a dark area, and her arrogance blinded her from seeing this.

        5) My question is how do you know for a fact that her co-workers are in solidarity with her? Have they issued a public statement and signed it? Or has the University tried to bury this, with non-response, requested non discussion, as it’s a public embarrassment for them in Korean culture. This needs to be proven as fact. ‘As far’ as you know’ statements are not considered fact. I would highly doubt that the University supports her for writing the letter.

        6) True, there is no way to know how he would have reacted if the situation was reversed. But what is known is that he did not exemplify proven sexism or racism towards her. He saw her only as an English speaker.
        In her letter, she showed herself to be sexist by accusing him of misogyny, and then racist by the mention of Korean men. And then she brought up other incidents that have absolutely no association or relationship with what happened with the two of them. Yes, she has the right to be fearful, or intimidated. She does not have the right to act out those feelings in any way she feels, without proof of harmful intention by the other party. If someone approaches me in the dark, I don’t have the right to shoot them just because I’m scared and don’t like them. I need to have proof of their intention to physically harm me first.
        And why would she (or he) stupidly walk into a dark and unlit area in the first place, whether there was someone there or not? Her judgment was ‘off’ long before she encountered this guy. She probably had a ‘bad day’.

        Were he not a male, and was a female, it’s unlikely that she would have ranted about ‘males following females’. Based strictly on the writings in her letter, she’s an indoctrinated extremist-feminist zealot, who probably shouldn’t be teaching at a University – if she truly believes everything she wrote in her letter. A professional doesn’t conduct themselves in that way, and being female and ‘playing the victim’ doesn’t excuse her behaviour in this matter, or his behaviour towards her when he followed her.

        Also – the idea of a person approaching another in the dark and giving unwanted attention, is what is the real issue, not the gender of the persons involved. It could have been two women in this incident, or two men instead, and the dangers or risks would still be exactly the same. The idea that men are always horny aggressors towards women, is totally sexist, radicalized, feminist bullshit. It could have been women to women or man to man, or woman to man in this case, and the risk factors would have been exactly the same, whether the wisdom to recognize this fact was there or not. And darkness is even a greater equalizer between the two of them.
        The gender and race is irrelevant and completely beside the point.
        There was never any need to mention whether this was a male or female if the idea of someone – anyone – approaching in the darkness is the issue.
        So obviously, she is the racist/sexist, and he is merely the sad angry jack ass idiot that reacted. That is the actual truth in this matter.
        Unwanted attention in a darkened area is the real main issue, not the gender. The gender between the two of them is a moot point, since either gender can be predator or prey in the dark.

      • With regard to 5) As a former graduate student there I keep in contact with some of my former professors. The impression I get from them is that the international faculty are largely sympathetic. I have no idea what the Korean faculty think about it. I should have worded that more carefully.
        6) Were he not male, she would still likely have told the person that it was weird to ask her for English help in that precise situation. In all my time at SNU not one student ever approached me to ask with English help… If I was on campus in the middle of the day I wouldn’t expect that to happen from anybody, so I can understand how she would get an instant reaction of “that’s weird”. Maybe as a foreign man I’m intimidating to ask for help from, maybe, assuming he legit just wanted English help, he chose her because she was a woman and he felt less intimidated by her? Regardless, the point I take issue with you on here is “Unwanted attention in a darkened area is the real main issue, not the gender. The gender between the two of them is a moot point, since either gender can be predator or prey in the dark.” Literally speaking that is true, but the amount of men being raped alone in dark alleys is vanishingly small compared to the number of women, and there is the real problem in your argument. It is both a general physical reality that women are weaker than men, and a statistical reality that women suffer more sexual assaults by men than any other configuration (women on women, man on man, woman on man). Especially in Korea, where women are often still made to feel responsible for attacks on themselves, or where there is not effective recourse to a serious police or judicial response, this reality underlies everything that is going on with her response during the event that happened and the letter written in response to it. Of course this doesn’t mean every Korean man is sexist, and sure the letter could have been worded more delicately. Maybe he was completely innocently trying to get some English help (but note, in no way as either a foreigner or a professor is she under obligation to provide it) and their mutual language failings caused the situation. But to suggest that she was wrong to feel intimidate, uneasy, or shouldn’t feel threatened JUST because he was a man is frankly ridiculous.

      • Well you’re right -she is entitled to have those feelings of fear and uncertainly in a dark area. But this would be the case for anyone entering in the area, including the guy that approached her. In a dark area, you’re always at risk for falling and getting hurt, losing your belongings, and generally not seeing what you’re doing. So her judgement to go there in the first place is suspect (and so is his). And yes it is generally and statistically true that women are weaker than men and that women report more incidents of sexual assault by men. But this doesn’t mean that men aren’t sexually assaulted by women or that women aren’t sexually assaulted by women. It happens almost as frequently as women who are sexually assaulted by men, it just goes unreported, isn’t taken as seriously, isn’t properly classed, and isn’t juicily sensationalized by the news media, and therefore doesn’t generate as much press as women sexually assaulted by men. There is also a huge statistical counting problem in the way it’s reported: it doesn’t always properly include school kids, teenagers, the elderly, bosses and employees, sisters and brothers, etc. etc. etc. the way it should. It’s also skewered in situations where a women sexually assaults a man first, then a man more forcefully sexually assaults the women back, and the women then reports his actions to blackmail him and extort money. The sexual assault against males gets inattention. This is true everywhere around the world, but especially true in Korea, where Koreans live and die by the honour of their reputations.

        I never said that she was wrong to feel intimidated.
        My exact words are: “Yes, she has the right to be fearful, or intimidated. She does not have the right to act out those feelings in any way she feels, without proof of harmful intention by the other party.” I also wrote: “The gender and race is irrelevant and completely beside the point.” because the reality is that anyone walking in a dark area is already in a dis-empowered position simply in the relationship with the environment around them. And any gender there can equally be predator or prey. She’s entitled to be fearful simply because she’s walking in a dark area – period. To make the man the actual focal point and total justification of her total fear, because he is a man, while ignoring the dark alley she walked into on her own accord, is not fully justified. Either gender is capable of the same thing, whether she realizes it or not. The man who approached her also has just the same entitlement to feel fearful of her since he’s in the exact same dis-empowered position, even if he doesn’t recognize it as such, and even if he’s the one approaching her in the darkness.
        She was also greeted by other women walking in the area, who apologized to the man for her behaviour, so she wasn’t totally alone and isolated.
        It’s also quite possible he was fearful of her, and initiated the conversation to ‘make friends’ and reduce the chance of an incident.
        Regardless of all this, when she uttered that he was ‘weird’ she created and established the adverse situation. He in turn – responded adversely to her.
        She caused her own problem, first by putting herself in that darkened environment, and then saying something that was misconstrued as an insult. The man – stupidly ‘role played’ in response to her, and never should have approached her in the first place, in the darkness, not because she was fearful, but because it was unwise for so many reasons. He caused his problem, in almost a subconscious non-verbal conversation with her.
        They are equal in stupidity.
        Now if they were in a lighted area, and she was alone and being followed at length by him – making eye contact with her and expressing his intents, then yes, she is totally justified in her fears, totally justified in her thinking and actions, and totally justified in writing the letter exactly as it’s written – because it was definite stalking and a definite intention to cause her stress.

        But she was not raped, and not sexually assaulted, so she is overreacting, and sensationalizing. And this is unfair to women who actually have experienced sexual assault and have the right to complain about a man who has committed an act of sexual assault to them, and to demand changes in society.
        This professor, by complaining as she has in her letter, is diminishing real sexual assault victims, expounding sexism against men, and negating the case she’s trying to make. And that’s the real bigger tragedy here. The entire issue gets hurt by the attention-seeker.

      • So let me get your basic point correct: you are saying that women should not be afraid of men unless the man is explicitly threatening sexually motivated violence?

      • No no, I’m not talking about women in general. I’m talking specifically about her. She should have either hurriedly taken his e-mail and answered his request in e-mail when she was up to it, or simply walked away very politely saying ‘I don’t have time, I have to be somewhere, I’m sorry’, and then kept walking – which is what most people would have done. She should not have said ‘you’re weird’, or ‘it’s weird’. As far as women and men go, anyone who feels nervous about a place or a person should simply leave and not show any emotion. When you show that you’re feeling fearful, or sad, or nervous, you give the other person enough information to decide whether they can become predator or prey. By walking firmly, not showing any emotion, reaction, etc. you remove the other persons ability to make decisions about your strength or vulnerability, and how easy it would it be for them to be predatory towards you. They have no information to make a decision. When you keep a blank stare, or don’t respond, you give no information, and you keep the power in the situation. No one wants to risk attacking someone they know absolutely nothing about, and that includes both women and men. People always try to size each other up first. The professor made another fatal flaw in writing the letter – she stupidly and indirectly let the guy know where she is and who she is. So now if he sees the letter, which has now been made public, and if he’s angry and embarrassed and vengeful, he can always wait a month and then go find her, and confront or even attack her, since he knows where she will be, and where she works. So the point essentially is – no information revealed is always best. It’s not a guarantee, but it does shift the balance of power to the person being approached or spoken to, who can then hold the other person in suspense as they exit the situation.

      • Regarding your desire for references about women sexually assaulting men, I’m going to give you this and you can keep looking from there. There’s tons of articles and information on it. https://www.google.ca/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=sexual%20assault%20of%20men.
        Because if I send you something specific, then it’s as if I’m wrong and I have to justify myself. I’m not wrong or right, because I’m not attached to my arguments, nor should you be. But I do call reality as it is, and don’t make excuses for bad behaviour from men or women.

        I understand that you think women sexually assaulting men doesn’t happen equally, but this is because of the way it gets reported and has been reported throughout history. You mention your source for women sexually assaulting men comes from your own experience, but unfortunately your own world of experience, obviously isn’t the entire planet. You must acknowledge that you might have something of a ‘provincial viewpoint’ if it’s your own experience and the media upon which you’re relying. Also – the media tell you what they want you to think.

        You also asked ‘how many times’ I’ve had unwanted sexual contact. Well, it’s been about seven times now. Five of these times were in Korea. I’m a strictly heterosexual, somewhat handsome guy who minds his own business. Did I want or initiate any of this? No. Was I expecting it? No. Did I really care that this happened? No, because it was mostly flirtatious and harmless behaviour designed to elicit a reaction from me. Did it bother me? Yes and no. I put each individual case into it’s own context. Some of it really bothered me and some of it didn’t. I didn’t take a harsh narrow and set view of all of it, because there’s no such thing as ‘one context fits all’. I also wasn’t stupid enough to give the person the desired reaction at the time and encourage the behaviour. I took control of my thoughts about the experience. I was thinking about my thinking of it. I’m the one who gives it meaning. I can either ‘play the victim’ and identify with being a victim, or I can be strong and say to myself – “lesson learned” / “don’t go there to that kind of place again”. I’ve also been stalked by two different women, where both times I couldn’t ignore it and had to take a hard stance warning them to stop in both cases. Should I have reported it? Technically, yes I should have. But then maybe I should have reported the female kindergarten student who kept following me in the school pool and yanking on my private part during a class. I felt totally violated each time, but I gently told them to stop and that it’s not appropriate behaviour, and then she smiled and understood, and said ‘sorry’. Of course she was too young to understand why it’s inappropriate. Had I used the professors extremist philosophies, this kindergarten student would likely have been removed from her home, arrested and jailed for sexual assault, and in the future would have been psychologically haunted by it being overblown at the time. I don’t think that’s good for anyone – especially a little girl. When she’s older she’ll probably laugh about it. Kids are going to be kids. And when things like this happen from anyone – ‘de-escalation’ is the key. I’ll come back to this.

        So unwanted sexual contact isn’t strictly about sex. It can be about power over someone else, eliciting a reaction, or playing, or affection, or violence. Each case is different, because each perception of it is different from both sides. There are no absolutes. Consider that just because you’ve never experienced women sexually assaulting you or don’t know others who have experienced it, this doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen, that it won’t happen to you, and it’s certainly not good for you to minimize it’s frequency based on your own personal experience. It’s a big world out there and everything you can imagine under the sun – both good and bad, is going on. We only live in our small specks of it.

        Going back our discussion about the radical feminist professor, you write ” She says she was harassed, and in her view that harassment was legitimate, or could be gotten away with, in the eyes of the man because she was a woman.” Well, yes she was harassed but didn’t she harass him first by calling him ‘weird’? Also if she can’t read his mind, how can she know what he thinks? But if he says something like ‘hey baby, hey bitch, help me out here’ well then you have your proof. But she didn’t have proof. So this ‘speculation’ is dismissable and never holds up in court because it’s not real. If she suspects he is, because of a bad feeling then she should calmly get out quick, not insult him.

        You also write: “She is drawing attention to the fact that a man can be intimidating and threatening by dint of BEING A MAN, and that men should maybe consider that before acting.” Well, yes a man can be intimidating, but it’s not his fault if he’s not trying to intimidate her, and she’s taking it that way anyhow. If she decides she doesn’t like him and assumes that he’s probably going to attack her, since the area is dark around them, then she’s creating that all on her own.
        She has the problem – not him. She’s controlled by fear, not reason. Had she remained calm and used adult reasoning skills, it might have been different.

        You also write: ” You, on the other hand, are saying that unless there was an actual assault, then it can’t be sexist behavior because anybody can feel uneasy and scared in a dark place.”

        That’s not really what I said at all. I’m saying that he needs to be displaying and exhibiting sexist behaviour towards her – designed to make her feel uncomfortable without any concern from him. He has to have the definite ‘intent’. And then and only then does she have proof of sexist behaviour from him before she can call him ‘sexist’. She doesn’t have proof but claims her own speculation is good enough – based on his racial appearance. Well it isn’t. All he did was approach her, and ask to have the word ‘coincidence’ clarified in some way. There is inherently nothing overtly sexist in those actions. If he expects her to answer him, then yes it is sexist. But she called him ‘weird’ before that could be established. The sexism is in her accusations of him of being ‘sexist’ because she focuses on him being male – when he’s exhibited no sexist behaviour and thus given no reason for her to think that way. So she was already focused on something (sexism) and she then found it. It began in her mind and ended in her mind as shown in her letter. He’s guilty of being stupid, but not guilty of sexism.

        Okay, you also write: “You’re arguing that hundreds of years of women having similar experiences that ended up resulting in far far far worse outcomes should just be thrown aside, and instead the woman should examine herself, and what she did wrong.”

        First relax, and ask yourself – where have I talked about ‘hundreds of years of’….at all? My points are specifically about him and her and where they went wrong. When you say this about my argument, it reminds me of how she (the professor) was also associating and stringing things together that are not related. The issue is not about women and men as gender groups. That’s just sexist dogma. The issue is about specific behaviour of each individual woman and each individual man, as they relate to each other – on an individual basis.

        Yes, if something happens to a woman or man, the person should honestly examine themselves and ask themselves ‘how do I prevent this from happening again?’ ‘Is there anything I did to unwittingly cause this to happen in this way?’ ‘Did I put myself in the wrong place at the wrong time’? If the answer is ‘yes’, then the person has to own up to that (e.g. like walking down dark alleys alone). If the answer is ‘no’, then the person can feel no regrets and should feel empowered to help others that this has happened to.
        But a person should always be ‘thinking about their thinking’ and not blindly stereotyping people in the situation.

        If a man or woman is hanging around the ‘wrong crowd’ ‘ wrong scene’, getting the ‘wrong vibes’, or eating the ‘wrong food’ etc. then they should listen to their gut instinct and leave right away. Remove themselves from the situation. To not listen to your inner self, is to be a volunteer for whatever happens. And over time this hurts a persons self-esteem and impairs their judgement. If a man beats a woman once, the man has individually proven what he’s capable of. If a woman cheats on her boyfriend and steals his money, she’s individually proven what she’s capable of. It doesn’t mean all women and all men will do that.

        It’s mindlessly easy to group all women together or all men together and say ‘all women are….’.or ‘all men are…..’. The truth is stereotypes ignore individualism. All groups are in reality – non-groups – women, men, transgender, gays, lesbians, black, white, asian, native americans, etc. etc. etc. because they can’t agree on everything, and are combinations of individuals under a label.

        So there is no such thing as the ‘gay community’ ‘feminist community’, white supremacists community, native american community, asian community, where everyone is in unanimous agreement. Individualism prevents this. And this is why the professor does not and cannot speak for ‘women everywhere’. It’s an arrogant ego trip for her and nothing more.

        You also mention: “That my friend is called normalizing a problem, not solving it.”

        Well how is this not normalized? It’s been going on since caveman times. And I imagine it will go on forever until humans evolve into the next life-form -hopefully a spiritual one that needs no body. Right now, this treatment of women (and men) seems it’s pretty normal, but it’s still undesirable, and unacceptable.

        How would you ‘solve’ it? I would solve it by ‘de-escalation’.
        De-escalation means to calm it all down. If the professor wrote a letter apologizing that she was uncomfortable meeting in the dark alley, and that she was tired, and that she was afraid of him in that environment, but that she would like to help him with his english, it would have been better. She would have not used accusations of sexism and racism and just treated him as another human being and not as a ‘korean’ or a ‘male’. And then she would have advanced the cause she stands for and got what she wanted – respect from everyone.

        So when something like this happens, we should be responding to the action as wrong, and not the person as wrong. The wrong action should be dealt with as a bad choice, and not by making someone wrong because of their race or gender, or suspected beliefs, because that’s just evil and it’s escalates the division and mistrust between women and men.

        If we want to help women, we can’t demonize men, and vice-versa.
        Both sides need each other.

        Unfortunately, there is no money in that, so the media and politicians, and lobbyists will keep stirring up the stereotypes, and the less educated or easily influenced will swallow whatever dumbed down ideas are dispensed without thinking critically about them. And they’ll keep using knee-jerk, automaton name calling and sensationalism, and the problems will never be solved.

        So if we want to solve these problems, then we must condemn only the behaviour and not mention any attributes about the person.
        Why would the attributes matter if the goal in having an equal society anyway?
        Keep it neutral. It also wouldn’t hurt to permanently get rid of all the lowest common denominator tv shows, movies, music, books, magazines, and dogmas that promote one way, unilateral, narrow, stereotypical thinking about men and women and race that reduces and encourages automaton behaviours, and not collective human beings as a whole, or as thinking and respectful individuals.

        Men and women from all races are all human beings, so we should treat everyone equally – and that’s all that should matter in addressing all problems. Keeping it simple (like in actual reality) and not over analyzing about gender or race, is what’s best.

    • To quote: “Wondering, to paraphrase the professor’s words, how many Korean men feel entitled to her attention because she is foreigner is unproductive and essentializing.” Sure, fair enough.

      But then Aeri complains about the alleged hordes of men longing for her attention: “many of them, I think, might have harbored some assumptions about Asian women or entertained some form of the despicable “Asian fetish.”

      I would say that “wondering…how many [non-asian] men feel entitled to her attention because she is [Asian] is UNPRODUCTIVE AND ESSENTIALIZING.” [emphasis mine]

      Why is it completely OK, this kind of hypocrisy? Aeri can complain that men “might” be hassling her because of her race. But this non-American, white woman cannot even *remotely* suggest something similar without being branded “post-colonial,” as if her having been victimized by an aggressive Korean man is her fault; as if here her “subconscious” nature/impulse/beastliness (??) as a colonialist aggressor (??) cannot help but manifest itself–without her even knowing it, of course–in the form of, well, VICTIMHOOD.

      This man, misogynistic, aggressive, and completely out of line, probably felt like he had the RIGHT to MAKE HER FEEL SCARED… which is scary.

      But when women themselves reinforce misogynistic, aggressive behavior–apologizing for the victim, even though the victim has a right to flat refuse to do anything–well… that is terrifying.

      • Please read what I wrote carefully before you accuse me of hypocrisy. I NEVER made apologies for the man’s behavior; I think it is awful. And I appreciate that she used her privileged position to bring to issue to light. All I asked is that she and others in her position do it while being mindful of their privilege. The reason I brought up my experience with men harassing me in public in the States is to delineate the discrepancy in our respective positions (Professor Fedorenko’s and mine) in the societies in question. Since I did not have the privilege, as a Korean woman in a North American country, for platform such as the one Professor Fedorenko had and has, I was merely asking that she and others in her position be mindful of the privileged positions when they rightly bring these issues to light.

        Again, I would deeply appreciate it if you could read what I wrote instead of accusing me of claiming things I never claimed.

      • The man was awful to her only after she was awful to him first.
        She’s also a professor of Anthropology who is abusing her position, to write hate speech against males (which ironically is a shining example the very sexism she complains about).

        If she had any real class, she would have gone home and forgot about it. Instead she writes a letter, not because she was wronged, but because she was worried about her own appearance and reputation for indirectly causing the problem in the first place. Don’t forget other women on the scene apologized for her behaviour to the man. The nickname for this is ‘damage control’. Fortunately enough people can see through this.
        Unfortunately, she’s crying ‘wolf’ and diminishing the actual cause a women have to draw attention to males harassing women as a social issue. She over-reacts, makes sensationalized statements in her letter, and it does more harm than good, because no reasonable legitimate legal authority could take such a neurotic angry person’s accusations seriously.

      • “I was merely asking that she and others in her position be mindful of the privileged positions when they rightly bring these issues to light.” Sure, that’s fair. White Privilege is a scourge about which Caucasians must be aware on a daily basis.

        But I also ask that you not be reductivist about the phenomenon of white privilege. White people, as the case with all groups, are not monolithic. Some are aware of their privilege, and work daily to overcome it, while others of course, are not and do not. You besmirched American men (whether Caucasian or non-Asian I do not know) based on a hunch about their intentions toward you. You claimed those intentions were probably based on your race, and the “despicable asian fetish”–as they approached you.

        Meanwhile, you call out the professor for her response to the Korean man’s behavior, bemoaning her “post-colonialist” reaction is to be interrogated, even condemned, likely, you add, based on her “subconscious” tendency to demean others based on her “privilege” as a Russian woman. (As an aside, you’re ignoring the complexity of accusing a white Russian women of white privilege in American society. It’s more difficult than you suggest to make objective claims here across socio-political contexts like this–though she does mention NA by name).

        Nevertheless, you both represent free women who have every right to assert themselves and take back control of their personal space as you wish.

      • I beg your pardon, but you again didn’t read what I wrote at all. First, I never claimed that she had privilege in America (as I understand it, she isn’t even American, so why would I make such an inane claim??); I said she has privilege in Korea, which Is why I believe she should have been mindful of her privilege while writing this letter. Second, I never used the phrase “post-colonial.” That would be simply absurd. Third, I never “besmirched” American men; I brought up my experience to highlight the fact that unlike the professor, I would never think to assert that what those men did was based solely on race.

        Again, I would very much aporeciate it if you could refrain from accusing me of writing things I did not write.

      • The term ‘white privilege’ is a racist term. It blindly and ignorantly assumes that anyone who is white has privilege and opportunities over everyone else, regardless of any other factors. It completely ignores that someone such as a white person with shabby clothes, speech impediment, deafness, etc. isn’t going to be treated the same as a black man or asian man, or native american with nicer clothes, clear speech etc. There are too many variables for this to be measured scientific proven fact. It is hypothetical in a case by case basis, by it’s very nature. It’s also racist b.s. that reduces people to only appearances, rather than taking into account individual personal qualities that each person has.

      • This man was likely a student, since he was on campus, had a cell phone out, and was asking about the word ‘coincidence. How is any of that behaviour (in your words): “misogynistic, aggressive, and completely out of line, probably felt like he had the RIGHT to MAKE HER FEEL SCARED… which is scary.”

        There was absolutely nothing wrong with what he did, until after she called him ‘weird’ and then he got angry to her.

        The only person who knew this man’s intentions was the man himself.
        It’s truly pathetic that people take her side because she’s a University professor who has accused him of being sexist and racist, when in fact she is the one committing the ugly act of sexism (because he’s a male he can’t ask a question?!!) and racism (her words: “how many Korean men feel entitled to her attention because she is foreigner is unproductive and essentializing.”

        She is the one with the problem, and he only reacts to her *after* she’s rude and cruel to him.

        I think if she wants kindness and respect, she has to also give it, and not arrogantly expect that a professorial teaching job means she can treat others like garbage. She can’t.

  5. Wow, you’re a real wet blanket. If I asked a random Korean for help pronouncing a word, and they dismissed me with arrogance, I’d label them an asshole and treat them accordingly.

  6. i thought she met wrong guy. but then i think again she just came to wrong side of world. especially when she talking about equality and human rights. and globalize what? when she dont even know how suspicious korea is? i assume who positive to korea are just korean or who don’t know about korea. think how long slavery would last in korea if japanese rule didn’t involved and how about today? the answer is “forever” its more meaningless than hopeless to talking about equality and human rights in korea. the korea need more modernization again before globalization or the globalization will turns to monkey zoo. how coincidence i have been describe koreans as caveman with gucci bag.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b90d3570f025073fa8b30a700760dd9a4170d51d3de3b20027de012332784db2.png https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/eb0e351bb4abd99162142a4e356e7f0f6e197a6a004707c294d63bf3eaffba39.png

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