Why natives hate tourists (Koreans in the Philippines)

You are in a middle of a boring day in your boring place doing a boring task. Say you are walking your way to Gargarita store to buy your weekly supply of pancit canton, sanitary napkin, powdered iced tea, and some tasteless biscuits when a sight of Koreans wearing colorful t-shirt and taking pictures of the Miagao Church catches your attention. At first you do not think of it as something extraordinary. Koreans are ubiquitous in any big city in the Philippines; they are either studying English, Christian missionaries, or immigrants who think they will have a better life in the country, or everything that were that were mentioned.

Koreans in the Philippines

At first, during the time when they were not as numerous as they are now, you would think they are cute. Anomalies that are not really nuisance, just different. For you they are a welcome sight. They are oases of white/fair skins in a sea of brown, too familiar Malay faces. But things start to change when you see one, two, or several of them every time you ride a jeepney going to school asking you to pass their fare in their funny accent when they say “sa lugar”, when you overhear their all-too-familiar laughter and shouts in your favorite disco house, or when you see in the news that a group of Koreans are reported to have run amok in a bar.

Things start to change when these supposedly tourists become so numerous that you think they are encroaching the space you believe is your space and the space of the other members of your community. Things change when one of your friends who is a tutor to Koreans has been gotten pregnant by one of her students you were barely able to distinguish when he was introduced to you together with his other Korean friends. For you, they all look the same: Fair-skinned, tall, clad in colorful clothing who always have with them their cool and latest gadgets.

You see them as tourist. You do not think of them as a student like you who have to go through difficulties such as delayed allowance, shabby clothing that have remained in your closet (that is if you have one) since you started college, or has no time to party not because you have literally no time but because the price of a bottle of beer is equal to two meals in a day in the university cafeteria. You see them as tourist who find fascinating and exciting the things you think are ordinary and boring. You think it is scandalous to pay for the airfare from Seoul to Iloilo just to see the facade of Miagao Church or Jaro Cathedral. You see English as a given and not something to be invested in with so much of one’s wealth.

You start to hate them when you see that the things, places, and objects you take for granted are interesting, important, and cool to them. You hate them because they have the freedom to leave their country and seek adventure in your poor country whereas you will never be given a chance to escape from the boredom of your place. You hate them because they too-easily own things that you think are dear and will need a month’s saving just for you to acquire.

Then you begin to see them as nuisance, even a threat to your self-esteem and your self-worth. You start to ask why it is so easy for them and so difficult for you. And you know that the answer boils down to the simple reason that you are poor enough to have the thing they have and to experience your boring place with so much interest.

Total population of Koreans in the Philippines: 92,608 (as of 2007)

Regions with significant populations: Metro Manila, Cebu City, Davao City, Bacolod, Iloilo City

Largely consisting of expatriates from South Korea, they form the largest community of overseas Koreans in Southeast Asia. Aside from long-term residents, at least 370,000 South Korean visitors came to the Philippines in 2004 for business, education, and/or leisure purposes. That number grew to 570,000 in 2006, meaning that South Korean tourists formed a larger group than American tourists for the first time. The recent influx of Koreans has been so great that 65% of the 155,744 foreigners who visited Boracay, the Philippines’s most popular tourist attraction, were South Koreans. Many South Koreans living in the Philippines are attracted to the low cost of English-language education and housing, both significantly cheaper than those offered in their native South Korea. The warmer climate is yet another motivating factor for the recent surge in migration.

Korean expatriates provide a significant stimulus to the local economy; they are estimated to spend between US$800 and $1000 per month, making an aggregate contribution of over $1 billion per year in consumer spending. South Korean tourists often enroll in short-term courses in English language schools to cope with South Korea’s growing demand for English proficiency. Their numbers include a large proportion of young people; according to Son Jung-Son of the Philippine-Korean Cultural Center in Seoul, over 1,500 Koreans under 20 years old arrive in the Philippines every month to study English.

51 thoughts on “Why natives hate tourists (Koreans in the Philippines)”

  1. thanks. this article has been misread a number of times. i have nothing personal against them. it’s not classy being racist, but more than the issue of having or not having class, i think that i cannot be racist.

    1. I live in the US – and your article is deeply felt. I was born in the PI, lived there for 10 years but have not been back home for well over 30 years. I can’t imagine how tourism and expats moving in from many different countries have impacted and reshaped the cultural landscape. I do not think you are racist at all. But what I got from reading your piece is the longing for a cultural identity that many Filipinos have sought, consciously or subconsciously. Historical accounts paint a picture that the PI is a true melting pot of so many cultures and it’s difficult to find our true identity. Perhaps the “true identity” lies in our peoples’ ability to welcome other cultures, adapt to new things, or be hospitable – sometimes to a fault, at the expense of abandoning traditions to adapt to other cultures in our soil.
      Your article also described the dichotomy of emotions – love/ hate, a double-edged sword. You expressed it well and I commend you for that.
      ~From a Filipina “Ate” who holds a PhD, teaches in a US college, and been mistaken for a maid from time to time (let this roll off my back)

  2. honestly i dont have any problems if a lot of chinese,, japs..or koreans etc… here in our country…same as alot of us migrating or living a year on some countries too..it just depend on how people look at it..i even enjoy watching them being enjoy on our country despite of everything..:)..

    but lol!!!…correction to that comment above…not only the lower middle class koreans or whatever you’ll call it..is the one that visit our country….there are artists who secretly go here.and upper class citizens..that guy better learned more.

    i somewhat agree on this article..since i also heard few people ranting the same things..but not to that point of hating them though…..

  3. Get these ugly ungodly slit eyed koreans out of the phillippines including the CHINKS and JAPS!! They are contaminating our country !!

    1. ..lol!!>..this these ugly slit eyed people are contributing something on our economy and tourism…i think your the one contaminating our country with your stupid comment!!..better get some life….!

  4. If you care less. Why did you write this narrow minded stupid article??? It gives you brown ass native islanders bad idiotic names. Where you on drugs?? or Too much sun for a day??.

    1. Please stop labelling the skin color. Whats wrong with brown? At least we dont get skin cancer when we are exposed to the sun for a long period of time. you would be brown colored if your country is in the tropics..(duh..evolution?) And please, make better insults next time. Your name calling doesnt solve anything

  5. Your taking things way too serious. Your lucky at least North Koreans are not power tripping trying to bomb nuclear weapon toward native islanders. You know what I mean?? Get to the beach and drink pineapple juice and relaxe.

  6. Telling you the fact. Accepting it or Not accepting it. Its your personal desire. You don’t need to write childish article and try to brainwash people with unprovided back up facts.

    1. i think that you did not understand the purpose of this essay. the problem might have been caused by my writing that does not lend itself comprehensible to people who cannot read nuanced prose. thanks a lot for reading, though.

      and i personally know i am not good at brainwashing people; i am not that persuasive, so this post is definitely not of that kind.

  7. Lower middle class Koreans are the one visiting and spending money toward your country. So don’t get all hyped up. Relaxe, its not like Koreans are ” bombing” your island nations with Nuclear weapons.

    1. i definitely am relaxed. and i do not see why you have to emphasize the economic status of your countrymen visiting this island.

      your discourse beggars my comprehension. i cannot see where you’re coming from.

  8. As a Hong Kong born Australian (this is written after the HK tourist incident), I believe this to be a Great Article.
    If this was youtube or facebook I would’ve liked each comment you typed.

    I believe people need to understand something more thoroughly before they judge it.
    Yes, perhaps if this articled was published elsewhere publicly it could be labeled “offensive/insensitive”, causing an outrage. Yes you could have been condemned by society, by numbers judging based on emotions, not relying on their rationality to try understanding your stance.

    Yes unfortunately that is reality, and I don’t believe you have full responsibility when someone is offended.

    1. leo, experiencing both the role of a native and that of tourist will let us all see that other seemingly ‘racist’, irrational perspectives indeed hold water.


  9. It find it really hilarious how this article was really taken out of context. Oh well, this is the price of (I’m using this loosely) postmodernism. The author must be open to relativism.

    Besides, if I may quote Avenue Q, “Everyone’s a little bit racist” anyway.

  10. I agree with heather,

    if the article was published in a newspaper it’d be labelled racist. 😉
    jus cus the implications of the first bit tho, i think the last bits i got the vibe of what u were trying to convey.

    all the best

  11. John,
    Racist does not involve actions alone. It is in thoughts and words as well. What you said on the paragraphs mentioned was indeed racist, but you just want to label it something different – “human nature to be wary etc.” Yes, it is indeed human nature to be RACIST.
    Also, I hate to burst your bubble but your thoughts on this are geared more to the ideal world – concepts, how things should be, etc.
    Sad to say, but that’s not reality. In the real world, people are going to be offended, whether you like it or not, whether it is your intention or not. If your article was written in an American newspaper, this would have caused an outrage already.
    Bottomline, no matter how much you argue where your points are coming from, it is always this: It doesn’t matter what you meant. It is how it is received.

    1. Are you saying that you’re free from these thoughts, hat you’ve always been the most open-minded person there is because you have never thought bad things about people who are different from you?

      If your definition is right, you are as prejudiced as I am.

  12. Heather,

    I’ve stayed in Europe and have been to half of the countries in Southeast Asia. I do not say, however, that I already know how it is to truly live there for three years or longer. But yes, I’ve already place myself on a position where I am a minority, where I am judged not because of what’s in the middle of my ears but with the color of my skin, my accent, my passport. But I accept my lot and used it to make me do what I do best better.

    It is convenient to do namecalling. Calling somebody an N, Flip, Jap, Chink, or even racist simplifies things. It automatically places a person in a convenient category that’ll be difficult for him to escape. Just because I expressed a thought, I know all of us tend to think of as well, does not necessarily make me a racist, whether I know it or not. It is man’s character to be wary of strangers, to think of people different from him differently. But that does not make him a racist. His actions does.

    If the article was not dissected grotesquely and is taken in context of the whole post, it could’ve been understood to be “less racist”. Understanding other nationalities begins with an acceptance that yes we, the natives are capable of feel something, “hate” as you may call it, “racist” because it is man’s natural reaction to something that is foreign inasmuch as the fair-skinned European or American feel this way as well. Learning and understanding start from this.

  13. John,
    I asked myself thesame question. The said community of “native people” is in Saipan. The locals there are called something else, and there’s two or three kinds of them. One of their race is called Carolinians. I forgot the others. But bottom line, they don’t like people who are not from around there, who makes more money, and is more successful than them. That includes Filipinos, Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, European, American etc.
    I lived there for 3 years so I KNOW. If you have a nice car, don’t park it near “them”. They’ll do something to your car. When you’re driving and have a nice car, you don’t drive it on certain streets populated by “local” people at night. They will throw rocks or pebbles at your car (take note: personal experience).
    Now, granted. There are educated local people on tht island, but nevertheless, the crab mentality is still there. You can google it on the web – Saipan. It’s an island in the Pacific. A dot in the pacific ocean, is more like it.
    Regarding your response to my comments, I get your point. It takes an outsider to make you appreciate what you already have. I still stand with what I said though. The way the article was written is racist, or rather, racially insensitive – especially the FIRST TWO PARAGRAPHS.
    What you wrote on that two paragraphs is what racist caucasian/white people here in America feels about “outsiders” –> immigrants such as Filipinos, Mexicans. Chinese, Middle Easterns, etc. Like your comment, first it was okay, or “cute”. When these “outsiders” increase, the said caucasion/white people feel outnumbered and uncomfortable. These is what we “outsiders” have to deal with here in America. You don’t know that coz you live in Pinas where it’s majority Pinoys and Pinays.
    The same thing goes if a black person moves into a white neighborhood. First, it’s okay. Then, another black person moves in. Then another one. Before you know it, there’s a whole block of black people. Then it’s not okay anymore. There comes that popular phrase in America “There goes the neighborhood”.
    The rest of the essay is okay. As far as racism goes, it has many levels. I studied it so I know. It’s not just joining the Kul Kux Clan and saying racist stuff like the N word etc. The mildest form of which is stereotypes. For example: Assuming a tall black guy is a basketball player. Another one: Assuming a Mexican at a hotel is a housekeeper. Another one: Assuming a Filipino in Hongkong is a maid. Another one: Assuming a bombay is a 5 6 dealer. It’s something so simple to assume, coz it’ s so easy to do but one hardly notices making such “racist thought”.
    Like I said before also, it’s harder to see my point coz you live at a place wherein you’re the majority. You have to live at a place that is racially DIVERSE and full of other races, then you’ll realize what was written in paragraphs 1 and 2 is indeed racially insensitive. You’ve explained your point, and I get you. What I’m trying to do is for you to get my point as well.

  14. The writer IS INDEED racist, whether he knows it or not. Put it in the context of Filipinos or Mexicans who migrates to the US. First, there’s only a few of them. So it’s okay and kind of “cute”. But then now, there’s many Filipinos and Mexicans in the US, suddenly it’s not okay. It’s “threatening” and annoying. Personal space/territory is being invaded.
    Another thing that was mentioned too is the jealousy factor. Hating Koreans for being able to enjoy fine things in life while the native Filipino can’t enjoy it. This is no different from Native Chamorros in Guam or Native (forgot the name) in Saipan. They hate people that come to their island, benefit from it, and be richer than them. For them, this is their island. This is a personal experience when I was in Saipan. A japanese business man built a hotel on a leased land. Was making a lot of money bringing japanese tourists on the island. Local Native started paying attention and getting “jealous”. Suddenly the lease expired and japanese businessman had to vacate/surrender property. Turned into a big lawsuit. Of course, Native people won. Japanese businessman said, fine. Take the hotel. See if you can make money out of it. Within a year, the hotel closed down. Couldn’t make any money as Native people didn’t know how to manage, market, and sell the property. It’s been years since them. The property is still closed down, rusting, and in horrible state. Native people preferred the property to be wasted rather than have a foreigner make money out of their island. Simply put: CRAB MENTALITY.
    Those people saying that this writer is not racist (whether intentional or not)needs to get out of the Philippines and live in another country first, wherein he/she is NOT the majority. It’s only then you’ll realize the CONTEXT of how insensitive to other races this article is.

    1. When is something considered racist? Whether the person who left her comment above knows it or not she IS a racist as well. For what kind of community of people who will “prefer” to have their source of living be jeopardized? Unless heather thinks that these people are hopeless and have nothing closer to what the people in the west call bright future.

      I know for one that the first paragraph of this response is not the right way to reply to an accusation that I, the author of the short article above, is racist whether I like it or not. If we put it this way, the article is not meant to place the South Korean in a negative light. What I am pointing, however, is the boredom of the natives in their own place that it takes foreigners to make them realize what they have. And that’s the ultimate reason why they ‘hate’, but it is not necessary that hatred is present.

      It is easy to say that somebody is racist, narrow-minded, an ultra-nationalist, but when we look inside us we encounter the grim reality that we can never wholly free ourselves from the supposed prejudices.

  15. i have a biased eye. so far, im fond of korean “anything”. clothing, language, especially fooooooood! yummy. i’m going to visit SK in august. i’m soooo excited. because of my work, and i am not an english tutor, i’ve been able to meet, work, and hangout with koreans. they’re cool, nice, and funny. i have seen weird, brash, rowdy, violent koreans, but not all of them are like that 🙂 la di da… viva la kimchi!

  16. i have a biased eye. so far, im fond of korean “anything”. clothing, language, especially fooooooood! yummy. i’m going to visit SK in august. i’m soooo excited. because of my work, and i am not an english tutor, i’ve been able to meet, work, and hangout with koreans. they’re cool, nice, and funny. i have seen weird, brash, rowdy, violent koreans, but not all of them are like that 🙂 la di da… viva la kimchi!

  17. hahaha first didnt even know the author of this article.im just googling something about korean when your blog came across.well to say filipino as racist is a funny idea with,all the callcenter and outsourcing company in phil(its a clear discrimination againts filipino).i had a korean friend once but i observed that they see us more of activity partner.and also our government is making phil a horrible country. well keep it up dude!!!

  18. no its not about racism.this article shows that koreans have more advantage in terms of financial and other aspects of life.the writer has some hatred issues but i understand his/her views. his/her opinion is strong and theres some reality backgrounds.

  19. if it is like how you see, tell me what made you say it is where it is. i’d be glad to listen to your argument.

  20. Xenophobia is nothing to be impressed about. The last thing that sensible Pinoys should do is to project their own biases against foreigners, and use the ‘natives’ discourse to conceal their true intentions. I hope that this blogger is not into anything parochial as to flaunt xenophobia at this time of rapid movement of the Pinoy psyche towards more tolerance, multi-culturality and appreciation of difference.

  21. i know this is completely (maybe) off the topic of the Koreans being in our country, but i’ve noticed some unnecessary “angst” in the post…
    for one thing, hating something, or someone for the matter by way of jealousy, for me, is wasteful of your time and worry. although it it give us a kind of “push” to wish to do or have what others can do or have… there’s a way to translate the negative into something positive by way of pint of view and goal setting.. like in the scenario that “one would hate koreans for their liking what seems to be boring, and that they have the luxury of travel (as what everyone aspires for the nomadic blood in every race still boils)” and turn this into a goal that we set for ourselves to strive for a better future…

    this would rather seem “idealistic” and kind of childish, but the world is simpler if we would focus not on judgements and the whys but on the “what ifs”

    hope this inspires someone!!!
    thanks for the post… it opened up my mind…

  22. fev, another well written article. by the way, you really got a tattoo? astig.

    i found your blog sa upvisayas.net. keep up the good work. hehe

    as for the koreans, i think they’ve overstayed their welcome, so to speak. hehe. you know, when you have a guest, and you expected them to stay for only about a short amount of time, but then they become too comfortable and stayed for months, na parang nagiging free loaders na lang sila. yun siguro bakit kumukulo ang dugo ng ibang pinoy. kasi parang iniisahan tayo ng mga koreano, that we’re on the losing side of the bargain. something like that.

  23. If the writer of this comment was truly able to comprehend the content of the essay above, he/she will realize that racism, xenophobia, or ethnocentrism, etc. aren’t the themes of the article. In fact the cause of the natives’ hatred could be anyone–a white American, an African, a fellow well-off Filipino or in this case the Koreans. The hate is not at all “unreasonable.” In fact it tried to show the universality of this tourist-native dialectic that anyone feels when they “feel threatened” by the presence a tourist. It is a reality we all have to contend with. And this essay allow us to reflect the reason why we feel this way. I have nothing against Koreans. Although I have not tried teaching them English, I have some Korean friends.

    And yes, those things you have mentioned–racism, ethnocentrism, xenophobia are not limited to the confines of the caucasiod race. In fact they are not dependent on the color of the skin, rather on the prevailing hegemony.

  24. This post goes to show that racism, ethnocentrism & xenophobia is not the sole property of caucasians. Even the “brown” Filipino is capable of unreasonable hate.

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