South Korea Sucked and I Want My Money Back

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After finally falling in love at first sight with a country (Japan) – the next country which I immediately visited from there was always going to have a hard time with regards to comparison. But I wasn’t expecting quite the fall from grace that occurred. I don’t believe in writing controversial statements for the sake of traffic, or to get people’s backs up. My blog is a place of honesty due to my personal experience and you can’t always like every country you visit. So on that note, it would be completely genuine for me to affirm – that South Korea sucks and I do not want to ever go back there.

If there’s anything to take away from my travels it is this – people make the places positive or negative. Sightseeing is overrated – people are generally not. They’re either amazing or awful and nothing in between. Some buildings may tell a story, but they do not move. They stay the same. People move. People talk. People are vulnerable. People are present. People interest me. You can be in the dirtiest, loudest, crowded, most chaotic country – but if you’re around polite, friendly, warm, fun people – it’s almost impossible to have a truly bad time.

And that’s my issue with South Korea. I found the natives of Seoul and Busan to be unfriendly, cold, antisocial, rude and occasionally a little racist.

I don’t even know where to begin. Everyone look so depressed, dressed in office suits in their abundant choices of American chain coffee shops, or rushing to work with their ‘get the hell away from me’ vibe. Every single time I was lost in the street and tried to get help, I was ushered away incredibly rudely. And yeah – I know I’m in their country and not speaking their language. I know that English isn’t widely spoken there, but that is a poor excuse for acting the way they act.

I don’t speak Swahili. But if I was in the UK and a Swahili person came to me for help – I’d try my best to help them. Body language is powerful too. And South Korean’s body language says “f**k off.” 

painting south korea
I painted a fish in South Korea. It was very exciting.

The Japanese speak little English, but I found them to be the polar opposite. And yes, discussing parallels between South Korea and Japan is like comparing a plain Ryvita to a double chocolate gâteau drizzled in maple syrup (with a steaming brew of Earl Grey on the side). There were several isolated incidents where myself and other caucasian folk were turned away from establishments simply because; “no white people.” (Which confuses me, because Korean women use a shit-load of white makeup to try and look more white). My friend was shocked (obviously) and the staff answered with a half-assed apology. My friend retorted with “no you’re not.” 

I agreed. I didn’t feel they had any sense of sympathy, guilt, or in fact any emotion that would be described as human.

So yeah, South Korea is joining Vietnam on my naughty country list. Because of my experiences with the people.

The only three friendly South Koreans in the whole of South Korea. As rare as unicorns. Loved these guys.
The only three friendly South Koreans in the whole of South Korea. As rare as unicorns. Loved these guys.

The message I get from Vietnam is; “give me your money now, or go away.” The message I get from South Korea is more like; “Don’t talk to me. Don’t look at me. Get away from me and leave me alone to sit here and hate life.” I’m sure there’ll be some hippy-dippy explanations out there such as my negative energy from my first experience perpetuated more negative energy. Or that I didn’t quite understand the culture. And that’s correct – I really do not.

I wholeheartedly agree that living in a country is a very different dynamic from just passing by and playing tourist. A few weeks ago I pretty much stood up for the Germans and backed them up against what I felt was an incredibly unfair perception – and I felt I could do that because I lived there. But I’m yet to be convinced that this was the case here.

I really tried to like South Korea, but I did not. I know when I’m not welcome and I never felt welcome in the land of…ummm – filtered coffee, suits and palpable misery? (Don’t even get me started on the worst world cup football stadium tour of all time).

Edit: Looking back at this article is weird and I don’t even recogonise the anger/bitterness anymore that I seemed to have carried at the time, but I’m clearly not the only one who had a bad time in South Korea. (Some of my defenders are even South Korean themselves).

I try and write at least one entry to every country I visit and if I was a people-pleaser, I would have written a simple ‘5 thing to do in South Korea’ article and moved on. But my feelings at the time were real and so I’ll keep the article as it was (deleting it from existence feels shady to me).

With that being said, after sifting through some of the hysterical, professionally-offended loser Korean expat comments (piss off and cry into your kimchi) – there were some constructive criticisms that I openly accept and such a damning verdict on a country that I barely spent enough time in, with a population of 51 million people – is ridiculous. (And so is comparing it to another country upon landing).

My bold claims about why Korean girls wear white make-up was totally unfounded, based on ignorance and I was rightly corrected. I lacked a lot of class in this article and I commented strongly about a culture, which I don’t really know anything about (other than the fact they make brilliant movies, stick ‘OldBoy’ on your list of movies to see).

However, there are plenty of supporting comments of the article (and in my inbox) from people who lived there for a long time. I accept some of the criticism on here, but those that left overemotional and aggressive comments (many of them rife with double standards and cliches) gave me a good laugh!

I’m done replying to this article.

Join the Conversation


  1. Wanda Hong Reply

    You hit the nail on the head. My husband's family is a warm and welcoming bunch and the people I met in small towns were friendly but overall Koreans are miserable and deceitful people who have no qualms with lying to a person's face and won't give you the time of day unless you are a paying customer. I loved the beaches and Jeju and the southern part of the country, the food and lots of things to see and do, but the people are generally rude and selfish and narrow-minded. I only go back to visit my in-laws but I would never live there again. If my husband ever wants to move back there he will be going alone!

  2. Wonamin Reply

    I’m glad you didn’t like it. I’m sick of you douchebags coming here and acting like you’re entitled to have everything the way it is comfortable for you. It casts a bad light on the rest of us expats who make a living here, find deep and satisfying relationships, and take the bad with the good.

    What I really don’t get is why or why you would put your name to such an ignorant piece of bigotry.

    1. Anthony Middleton Reply

      Wonamin – Well done on finding a deep and satisfying relationship in a place that you like. That’s happened to me a lot too. I don’t like the place based on my experience – not because I was feeling ‘entitled’ to anything – and I certainly don’t crave comfort when travelling – that’s somewhat of an oxymoron. I just found South Koreans extremely rude and cold. I’m allowed to have that opinion just as much as you’re entitled to think I’m a douchebag.

      It’s not bigotry to not like a place and to express this. Get off your soap box and have a reality check.

    2. C H Reply

      I think you’re the real douchebag, idiot. You people go about life with the most authoritarian attitude (“no complaining” is your mantra) and if others don’t do the same, you lash out at them because you’re jealous of their freedom. I think deep inside you know Anthony is right, and you’re just angry that you’re stuck in Korea.

  3. Anthony Middleton Reply

    Hey Wanda,

    Looks like you had a very similar experience to me. I tried to like it and I tried to look for nicer people, but like yourself – no joy! Yes rude, that is the very first adjective that I think about when I think of South Korea.

    Well done for finding a good'n though 🙂

  4. J Reply

    I empathize with the lack of friendliness towards foreigners in Korea. One of the reasons is because “foreign” teachers who come to teach English in Korea tend to be second rate people – that is, they have nothing going for them back at home and want to prolong the college hook up experience. Most Koreans first real interaction with a foreigner would be one of the many foreign teachers.

    Another reason is … Koreans are xenophobic (to say it nicely).

    1. Anthony Middleton Reply

      Thanks for you empathy! It seems I am being accused by some of being xenophobic for saying that most Koreans who I met were xenophobic! Yeah I get some foreigners might not be the best behaved over there, but I’ve never felt a coldness like I did over there.

    2. Tim Reply

      Does that mean that Koreans that come to America are also second rate losers and can’t find jobs in their own country?? Koreans that immigrate to America never commit crimes, well, except for human trafficking in the ubiquitous massage parlors, a mass shooting, visa fraud at ESL schools, murder, domestic violence….shall I continue? If a dirty foreign teacher gets caught with a joint the KT and Herald will run a headline, “Foreign teachers are drug abusers”. I’ve had several Korean ESL students in the US who bragged about their pot smoking. Of course it’s just A-OK for them to break laws here. You so much as fart on a subway in Korea and the media demonization of all foreign teachers will begin shortly thereafter.

      I didn’t teach for 3 years because of what happened to me on that little peninsula. You can’t teach people who already know everything. Ajosshis (sp), you know, the hostile little middle aged guys, just couldn’t stand the fact that we knew more English than they did. I was challenged all of the time despite being a native speaker and only speaking the language for 35 plus years. Many resented having to learn English and did everything they could to make my life miserable in the classroom.

      The funny thing is that now I teach some Koreans in the US and every single one of them will do practically anything to avoid returning home. If Korea is so great, why do so many of them leave?

      Now that I’m more qualified and much more experienced I would never in a million years endeavor to ‘teach’ in Korea again. I caution people to avoid Korea like the plague. It will mess you up in the head, sometimes permanently if you stay too long.

  5. J Reply

    “prolong the college hook up experience” with an Asian fetish to boot.

  6. Simon Bndr Reply

    Absolutely agree with every word you said. I spent an exchange semester in Seoul and never have I ever felt more unwanted in any place before. The Korean people are extremely superficial, racist, rude and very unfriendly. I hope I will never have to visit Korea again in my life and cannot recommend it to anyone. I am also 100% on your side regarding Japan: Most friendly, helpful and welcoming people in the world. Visit Japan – you´re gonna love it!

  7. B Reply

    I hate Korea. I hate it. So god damn much. But, I completely disagree when you say that Korean people are rude, especially against foreigners. As in matter of fact, I think towards foreigners, Koreans are extra friendly. Living here for 9 years, the friendliness is probably what I’m going to miss most. That, and the wonderful skyline. But South Korea still sucks. The education culture sucks, the work culture sucks, the language sucks, etc… But they are some of the most polite, friendly people to hang around.

  8. none Reply

    KOREA FUCKING TERRIBLE ! the people especially, deceitful, selfish, racist.
    The best part is that Koreans think they are a major world economy, when actually no one gives a shit about them, and we care more about North Korea. Stay away from here!

    1. fhvkbefhv Reply

      oh fuck off u nigga. i know alot of kind freinds here that are better than your mums pussy. plus we are one of the world major economy so fuck off u ruthless piece of nugget. you fuckin muppet go lick ur dads asshole you fuckin rascist shit. and we give a shit about korea. you only pay attention on porn you nigga fuck off ya dickhead. the last sentence tells me that your mental issues are gay as a mf dickhead go suck ya own dick.

  9. Jake Reply

    I’ve lived here almost 3 years teaching in public school. I’m from London, England. My experiences here as a non white male in his early 30’s have been up and down. Mostly down. I barely go out and socialize with Koreans. (mainly stick to foreign bars) My experiences of Koreans/Korea have made me this way. There is racism here, it exists on all four corners of the planet. But what really annoys me more than anything else is there’s no individuality. They all think, talk, dress, eat the same. Of course there are a fair few folk who do realise the direction Korea is going in and want to make a difference. But most aren’t bothered. I don’t plan on living here for the rest of my life at all. Best advise I can give is take everything with a pinch of salt and save up as much as you can.

  10. matt Reply

    You just visited – try living there!
    I did – went there open minded. Had no problems with Korea – had never really spoken to a Korean before leaving. Had not heard that they were so racist or that they considered themselves superior to other cultures. I also didn’t know that they judge people on EVERYTHING. It was an eye opening experience. Now … now even though I have some Korean friends, I find that I really dislike Korea. I don’t like feeling that way, it saps your strength, that negativity, but you can only hear someone tell you how great and perfect they are until it starts rubbing you the wrong way. Also, what is with the complete lack of manners? If a country cannot learn to single file when walking down a street, it is never going to be a desirable place to spend time within.
    And yes, why do they all want to leave if it is so perfect?
    Why do they all get plastic surgery if they are the most beautiful race in the world?
    But at least there is the cancer known as Kpop – which isn’t a cultural appropriation of American pop, don’t be ridiculous.

    1. Beatris Reply

      Wow… i can’t believe what a lot of these comments are saying. Yes, Korea is a very difficult place to live. Everyone is struggling here. Students study hours and hours unable to experience what other forigen students can experience. As a Korean student in university, I have struggled greatly because I had to study things I wans’t interested in for hours while only being able to sleep 3hrs. Even after university, it is very difficult to get a job.
      I also agree that some people are rude. But isn’t it the same with every other countries? My experience in the US was horrible (Lived there for 2yrs) because of all the racism and the hate and the rudeness. However, I would not post articles like this because I had met a few nice people there and I would never judge an entire country with so many diverse people living there.
      I apologize for your horrible experience in Korea. I wish it would have been a lot better. And with people talking about history, most people don’t change the historical facts. If it can be proven right, than most people do the sensible thing and believe it. For exmple, we accepted we have done severely wrong things to Vietnam during the vietnam war but Japa to this day still denies the mere existence of Comfort women.
      All I am saying is writing phrases like “Koreans are poorly educated” or about how nothing is good about Korea or how K-pop is cancer, it proves that the writers are disrespectful and poorly educated. Some streets in Korea is dirty, there are rude people but so are every other countries. Don’t just bash other countries because the place where you visited or lived was not to your satisfactory

  11. jose Reply

    Koreans are poorly educated, they study a lot in schools to get good jobs but nobody teach them about manners. Is a “image” country, they only care about buying clothes, listening to commercial junk music like K pop and getting surgery. They spit on the floor every 30 seconds as if they had a problem in their mouth, there are trash everywhere, cars don´t respect pedestrians and also the architecture is ugly, everywhere looks same full of horrible buildings that are expensive to rent but its design is crap, you take the bus or subway and smell awful probably because the food they eat specially kimchi, so my recommendation is to go to Japan, which is a beautiful country, clean with respectful people, do not waste your time in Korea there is nothing to see, luckily I’m returning now to my country Chile to be with real people:)

    1. Toby Reply

      Koreans are racist? 😀 This a pretty ridiculous comment. You pretty much dehumanized an entire culture and declared them as not “real” because they like kimchi, kpop, different architectural preferences, and don’t regularly talk to strangers. Great job man!

    2. Fuck Reply

      Go fuck yourself shit lips. I am korean and this guys is racist. Fuck you and fuck all ur friends and fuck fuck fuck fcuk fcuk ur dad and cosin this guy korena food is good only 3 nice people fuck you duck fuck x2134567897654321345678976543212345678

  12. Waygukyoja Reply

    The korean people are lovely, except the gaejossi (middle aged men) Unfortunately due to it being the hermit kingdom you will rarely experience this unless you know the language or meet koreans who have been sufficiently exposed to outsiders.
    If you speak the language well it has been my experience that they treat you very differently.

  13. Nishi Reply

    I was in Japan the other day and some guy said to me, “Do you know Anthony Middleton?”

    I said, “Huh?”

    Then he added, “We Japanese all hate his cocksucking faggot ass guts!”

    1. RonM Reply

      quit lying

  14. Mandy Reply

    I could not agree more. I did a one-year teaching stint in Korea a few years ago and apart from a short initial honeymoon period, very quickly grew to dislike the place. I found so many aspects of it disagreeable, and at around the halfway mark of my stay was already counting down the days to leaving. It is such a vain, superficial, empty society, lacking in any real character of its own, and indeed often racist and xenophobic, such that I honestly just became miserable being there.

    And yeah, Japan is miles above Korea in pretty much every way possible. My experience in China was also much better. I don’t know how Korea grew so popular (at least in some circles), but I do know that I don’t ever want to go back.

  15. BHK Reply

    Naw. You had it about right. And if you thought things were rough for you as a white person, you should see how SE Asian people are treated here. I have no problem with your article at all. I’ve been living here for 6 years and I couldn’t find a single lie. On my way out of here soon!

  16. Sean Reply

    “I couldn’t form superficial, transient friendships with the locals in my one week in country, therefore the entire country sucks.”

    Yes, Koreans can be rude on the surface. It’s a society that rewards cultivating friendships over many years over short term relationships. That’s just how it is. Japan is the opposite in that people are nice to you at first but never let you get close, which is why I preferred Korea having lived in both countries.

    The author of this blog was obviously a very shallow, closed minded, and entitled during his travels. I should add that we spent two weeks in Vietnam and managed to befriend locals there without money being involved.

  17. New yorker Reply

    Yeah, because your one second experience in Seoul is valid enough to write a disgusting blog entry like this. Maybe it’s because you’re a douchebag. The Koreans I met were super friendly, walked me to where I needed to go when I asked directions. And the partying is out of this world. Maybe you were lost in a business district during rush hour you cunt. Try asking for directions during rush hour in NYC where I’m from and see how friendly folks are

    1. Anthony Middleton Reply

      You’re such a hysterical moron that you don’t see your own glaring double standards. So it’s ok to observe that New Yorkers aren’t friendly as a subjective experience, but it’s not ok to say the same about Seoul? Because, “muh different culture tho.” And I’m guessing the fact they don’t help you in New York has nothing to do with you being a douchebag? Get the fuck out of here.

  18. Ben Reply

    UK or US tourists should go to Japan. Japanese are more polite to strangers and so they’ll feel good about themselves after brief and superficial encounters. Korea is just not a great place for tourists, specially if they’re in need of attention. Koreans in Korea are tough, busy as hell and focus on their families and friends, war and great poverty is still in the minds of many.
    So understand that your precious vacation around the world in search of open minded-ness means nothing to them. Also as a white young male with no wife and kid -someone free and independant- you typically inspire distrust, and if the prospect of a lasting relationship is gone then there’s no real need to act friendly towards you. It’s the same thing in Japan except they will smile more and be deferent to anyone but they feel the exact same way about you.

  19. Jay Reply

    I once heard this from a very well respected foreign resident who’s family history in Korea dates back to 1885. He’s also White, but with American ancestory, and he was born and raised in Korea, as was his father, and his father’s father. I say this to establish that he’s a very clued-in foreigner when it comes to oppinion’s about Korean culture, so here’s what he shared with us in a lecture:

    “Koreans will either be the most rudest or the most kindest people you will ever meet in your life. What determines which one they will be for you is the answer to this question, ‘Are you in or outside the circle?'”

    Essentially, if you do not know anyone or have anything (circumstance, relevant issue or prop) in Korea to break the ice of you being a stranger. Then you will practically be treated like a ghost.

    It sounds like you were here for a short period and had some bad luck. Also you may have unknowingly looked, dressed, appeared or behaved in some way that caused people to avoid you, even though you may have had no bad intentions. Koreans are very much into vibes and have a cultural construct and operating mode they use to judge people and situations non-verbally called “noonchi” which Koreans describe as an astute, telepathic-like, profiling strategy to form theory of mind about other people’s motives, feelings or a situation. It can be insanely accurate, or way off, especially if you give off certain vibes, mannerisms and gestures. For example people who having resting bitch or asshole faces.

    1. Steven Reply

      To me it seemed more like a minority just didn’t care for foreigners and didn’t see a need to be polite just for the sake of it. The rest were either indifferent or actually really friendly. I didn’t perceive that much of a thawing out process, nothing like what you get in much of Europe where they can be very distant to strangers to start off with.

      That said, in Korea the vibe on the whole definitely felt a bit less friendly than other places in Asia I’ve been to. I could see sensitive personality types maybe finding that part of it a bit difficult.

  20. BeenThereSeenThat Reply

    Seems like a few butthurt losers here believe non-Koreans cannot be honest about their horrific or disgusting time in a place such a huge part of the population call Hell and are super miserable in, themselves.

    Having lived in Korea 5 years, I increasingly found the people massively deluded by the weird racial supremacy propaganda- something akin to Nazi Germany and Facist Italy in the 1930s – perhaps to cheer themselves up, but more from what I heard from Koreans, that it helps them feel better because the breed of Confucism there results in nearly everyone trying to tread on or out-stomp those younger/poorer/weaker, etc., than themselves.
    I certainly noticed in companies I worked in there that women and younger/less senior in “rank” get shat on and slave dives most of the time while less capable “higher up” nobodies sit out in the toilet cubicles/smoke outside, chat online most of the day. Similar sort of peaking order played out in office dinners, where the women/younger people had to pour drinks, cook meat/eat the scraps, etc. and get snarled/yelled out by drunken, fowl toads.

  21. Edward Petersson Reply

    Well, that does come with the turf, lad.
    Korea has long been a down-trodden piece of turf, for centuries or longer.
    Korea has had to stick with being the underdog, scaping and copying from other countries, getting aid/soft loans, overseas technology, etc., to build the country.
    Even if Koreans claim they did it all themselves, inwardly they mostly know it’s not so true. All this must wreck havoc on their minds. Still, perhaps they could try a bit more to live up to the claims they are a polite, warm-hearted and sincere people.

  22. james Reply

    honestly, you really offended me. I live in south Korea in Seoul now, I’m telling you the people there are no one like you said.

    1. Anthony Middleton Reply

      Honestly, you being offended holds no substance to this or mean anything to me at all. I’m happy you’re having a good time and I hope that continues – there are plenty of people in the comments (and in my mailbox) who have had a similar experience to me.

  23. Dante Reply

    People are under the wrong impression that its foreigners but they treat anyone they did not grow up with impersonally (part of culture) and koreans are generally miserable. I am korean american and had the same experience. There are good people there but they are busy and have their own problems too.

  24. GermanyPoland Reply

    I’m from central Europe and I live in Korea already 3 years. I must say that I fully agree with your article. And to make it clear, my wife is Korean so its not like I am some kind of anti-korean guy (lol). Actually I very like Korea and try to think about it as my country since I know I will spend here rest of my life. But I cant also ignore the fact that many Koreans act in rude or at least ignoring way toward foreigners. I never lived in any “foreigners” place like Hongdae or Itaewoon where people used to them.
    I dont want to complain here, so I will not give any examples. The only point of my post is to say thank you, to Anthony for writing this article. I often felt bad that I had these not always positive feelings for Korea, so its good to know other people have similiar point of view.

    1. Dan Reply

      Having visited Korea twice and having spent a year trying to learn their language, history and culture (and having been told I’m “unwelcome” to learn any of them by multiple Koreans with no reason given), I will reiterate what I said to the author via Facebook, “if Japan is the land of the rising sun, South Korea must be the land of the rising middle finger”.

  25. forever optimist Reply

    (i’m optimist and look everything from positive angles only)
    i know that we, as humanbeings, have very common universal values. so we are incredibly similar if we once get to know each other deep down. however, i find the case of Koreans most peculiar. my greatest disappointment & anger is that, in the end, all i’m left with is
    inconsolable sense of being cheated by this whole “Korean” thing…
    why? let me explain.
    i don’t care how they are – rude, unfriendly, ignorant to the bone (u can take 1000 academic courses and still be ignorant. if u know what i mean) i can live with that only if some positive mantle of things existed when dust settled.
    but there is NOTHING. i mean NOTHING WORTHY here!!!
    whatever makes Koreans feel so empowered (really?) were copied & imitated from Western World: baseball, soccer, electronics, clothing, medicine including plastic surgery, automobile. list is endless.
    feel like an economic powerhouse much? really?
    feel like people around world constantly care about them much? really?
    their food? much of it is just rehashing of western food.
    their own food is impossibly burdensome to maintain on a daily basis. especially if you are poor.

    then where does this “Korean pride” come from???

    as stated, there is nothing truly worthy of their own.
    their default world is pure unbridled ignorance.
    so they must go on hiding their innate shortcomings.
    they should appear tough & important.
    otherwise, they must face inevitable “insecurities”.
    this is why so many of us see “duality” in them.
    i feel sorry for these Koreans. i sincerely hope that they overcome their hollowness by making genuine quality improvement. until that happens, i would stay away from them like worthless manure. taking risk to meet a few good koreans (there are) is something just not worthwhile.. sadly.

    and to you Koreans. don’t worry. when & if you guys build true quality amongst you,
    the whole world will take notice and adore you. just don’t make noise & create drama when you built nothing yet. i beg you to learn virtue of being humble.

  26. Ahmed Reply

    Totally support ur article , i used to live there for almost 2 years and i have even much more than u said , iam quite sure if u really lived additional time ur emotions won’t go away easily when u read back ur article:)

  27. Tom Reply

    My first Korean experience was being searched by customs because I’m supposedly an American drug trafficker and transporting drugs from Singapore to Seoul. If you know anything about Singapore drug policy, them you’d know how outrageous of a claim this is.

    Then I experienced everything in this post.

    Then my taxi crashed into a wall and an ambulance took me to the hospital after laying on the pavement unconscious for an unknown time. (I fainted after I got out of the taxi.)

    The hospital demanded a cash payment from me before treatment, even though my home attorney had two separate insurance companies send them payment guarantees. They claimed that because I’m “white” that I won’t pay my bill and that they don’t trust the insurance companies because they’re American.

    Then my hotel room is robbed while I’m in the hospital.

    Before I leave, I exchange currency back to USD and get fake super notes.

    I have food poisoning the day after I left.

    I don’t like Korea, at all.

    1. Kim Reply

      I’m a Korean and lived in foreign countries for a long period of time.
      I’m sorry that you’re experience in Korea was so bad and a lot of comments have
      valid points although a lot of the comments are incorrect.

      First, multiculturalism is a concept that is still unfamiliar to Korea. Now there are a lot more
      foreign workers and immigrants in Korea around 2 million people, but ten or more years ago foreign people could rarely be seen in Korea. So when we grew up we don’t know how to approach to foreigners and because most Koreans still struggle with English, it’s very difficult for them to communicate with you.

      Also, Korea is a divided country still under ceasefire and for a very long time Korea has been trampled by foreign countries so naturally elder people might hold grudges against foreigners. Most foreigners don’t know about the history of Korea and probably most don’t even give a damn. And if you’re not interested about the history and its people then I probably would advise you to stay away from here because it would be unpleasant experience for both foreigners and Koreans alike. Things change very fast in Korean both the good ways and the bad ways and we have a long way to go, but a lot of comments like the one above mine is just fake lies filled with hateful comments.

      Our country has problems and the people really don’t know how to treat foreigners. However, it’s not really because Koreans are inherently bad or racist. Most simply don’t know how to approach because they don’t have a single clue about foreign cultures and customs. I agree that we need to treat foreigners much better but it will take time.

      Lastly, workers from foreign countries cause a lot of problems in Korea and it has become a social issue. Recently, a college student tried to stop two foreign illegal workers from raping a girl and got stabbed and killed. I just said this to point out that Koreans need to be better, but foreigners aren’t always the ones that are mistreated.

  28. Dan Reply

    Im here in Korea right now and theres just something about this place that is making me miserable.

    I really think its the daily human interactions. Seoul feels like the coldest place I’ve ever been to. The expression and vibe that I receive day to day from people is really that I’m not welcome here.

    This is a huge contrast to Taiwan (where I was previously), even though their English was way worse than Koreans. They were the kindest and most warm hearted people. While i was only there for 4 days i made plenty of strong connections and friends that make me look forward to returning.

    I get Korea must be a very stressful place to live, but to be fair Taiwan would be equally as stressful with all the pressure from mainland China…

    I honestly cant tell if most people here are warm-hearted deep down or whether they are really cold to the bone. 99% of peoples body language shows a clear “dont talk to me” attitude which makes it very challenging to find out.

    Anyway im counting down the days to Japan to alleviate me of the cultural misery im experiencing here.

  29. JM Reply

    Japan is really friendly? Of course we can be kind.
    But it is the worst for poor people.

    The world’s a cold impression people (in japanese)
    This link is written by Japanese people to criticize Japan.

    Despite being the third largest economy in terms of knowing Hargur in Japanese, seeing the chart above, shea butter, donor organizations that contribute to the world, organ donation, providing poor people, and searching for poor people, all aspects It is the lowest.

    1. RonM Reply

      “We can be kind”… ? “we”.. ? Are you Japanese? I don’t think so.

      Im an Italian man live in Japan. I can read Japanese and the author of the article you sited was obviously an anti Japanese (possibly a Korean..Since his Japanese is written in some korean writing styles) activist.. I mean the author identify himself as a “JAPbuster “? Come on… And the article itself is just a cheap blog with full of baseless accusations / immature racist commentaries against Japanese people. Why did you decide to link that blog dedicated to be racist against Japanese people, possibly written by an anti Japanese, Korean person?
      Are you actually the author?

  30. 김광국 Reply


  31. Josh Reply

    This post still rings true years later – we also came to Korea straight after Japan and the experience could not be any more night and day. We also found Koreans to be extremely cold and outright rude at times whereas the feeling one gets in Japan is that it was a place that could restore ones faith in humanity

  32. Fluffylittlethingwithears Reply

    I know this is a pretty old article, but I’d like to comment regardless. There are negatives and positives to any country and I think your experience will depend on your luck (the people and situations and places you just happen to meet, and be in), your current attitude/inner struggles at the time of visit (I lived in London for 4 years, and at the time I was in rock bottom of my social anxiety issues, and London is not the best environment for someone with those problems – suffice to say that Korea wouldn’t be either. And I hated it – but I dare to say that perhaps if I went back now, my experience would be a lot better.), as well as your own culture and how it might or might not clash with the local culture (a person from very conservative family may not have the same experience of , say, Saudi Arabia as someone whose parents are…hippies? Lol. Oversimplification but very elucidating one). How you look etc can also play a role. A person from the Philippines will probably have a different experience from a white blonde tall female in Korea. So I live in Korea now. My experiences are of course colored by all these things – I am a blonde tall white female, but I am also an athlete (weightlifter). I don’t hang out with or around office workers – I hang out around other weightlifters, other athletes, coaches, students (I also study at uni here), as well as crossfit people. A lot of people, but if you think about it, it’s a niche. A small one. I do speak fluent korean. My husband is korean, but I don’t hang out with his friends much. They like to drink – and (most) athletes don’t drink. I’m in bed by 10. Ok so you get the drift. The stories my husband tells me about the atmosphere in his workplace (he actually quit his previous job because people were so backstabbing and the whole place was a bastion of depression) however certainly confirm a lot about the helplessness of korean society. The insane pressure and the generation gap that splits the country in two (which you may argue is not good bcs Korea really doesn’t need any more splitting in half, if you know what I mean). I actually agree with your shock at the “white people” thing. People in Korea are like children in so many ways. I doubt that many of them are malicious, but they really need to think more deeply into the way you talk to people, what a complement actually is and how not to cross the line between being nice and being patronizing. A great example is when you say just a few (very basic) words in korean , and their eyes widen and they’re like OMG YOUR KOREAN IS EXCELLENT. That is weird, patronizing and bordering on insulting (foreigners are so stupid that even saying “hello” is a huge achievement). It’s all a part of this idea korean people have of their exclusivity as a people (only korean people can truly appreciate korean food, only korea has 4 seasons, only Koreans can learn and speak korean well, etc etc etc). It’s about ten times worse in North Korea, but this mindset is present in the south nonetheless, albeit subconsciously in many people. They need to realize that commenting on a persons body is not appropriate in most situations. It is quite a shock that while Korea is extremely professional and regulated and advanced in many spheres, peoples attitudes, beliefs seem to be lagging behind. Some people still believe the most ridiculous nonsense regarding health, fitness and nutrition, for example. Some areas are actually over-regulated to a point where it is paralyzing (as a foreigner trying to register on various websites is.a.nightmare. With the ipins and the verification numbers and the documents and the certificates…and then because you are a foreigner the system gets confused if you transcribe your name wrong…not to mention that you can’t do anything on a mac.) another thing that’s an absolute horrid nightmare is the religious culture. It’s a big business full of criminals, not unlike religious institutions elsewhere and it’s sickening, but it’s extreme here to a new level, because korean society is such that everything is taken to extremes- education, work, drinking….Tyrion Lannister would find it hard to keep up with all the soju. That said, there are many things that are great about Korea, and partly it’s about putting yourself in sotuations which take advantage of all the positives. But I definitely don’t plan on living here forever. Hell to the no!

  33. Joe Sullivan Reply

    I’ve lived here for 13 years. You are right. The only reason why I stay is the money

  34. Lyn Reply

    Thank you for the relatable post.

    I am from Singapore and I just came back from a one-week free-and-easy holiday in Seoul. I had a similar experience so I was trying to find out if it’s a cultural thing. I usually have travel withdrawal symptoms but I realised that I don’t miss Korea or want to go back there again.

    I tried to learn some Korean before going there and spoke very nicely to the service staff but they gave the same “f**k off” attitude. In total I only met about 6 Koreans who were nice. 2 were Airbnb hosts, 3 were from the ski resort, and 1 was from a strawberry farm.

    I was wondering if young Koreans were unhappy because of their college debt or stress etc. And if they have been to another country before and needed help from the locals. I tried to figure things out by myself and tried to avoid asking for help as much as possible so I don’t have to receive the “gtfo” vibes from them.

  35. JimmyF Reply

    Wow, this post (and most of the comments) really resonates with me and I agree completely. I lived in Seoul for a couple of years and routinely got the sense that a number of locals did not like me being there. A few times I was even verbally abused just walking down the street minding my own business, something that has never happened to me before in any other country, at least not on the basis of race. Most foreigners I got to know had their own similar stories too. And I agree – even when it wasn’t explicitly expressed, I could just sense it in people’s body language – “Go away, do not want.”

    I got to know a number of nice Koreans too and really appreciated their kindness at times but overall the experience was too tainted by the negativity I felt. These days whenever Korea comes up as a topic of conversation I find I actually have to hold back with my true feelings a bit lest people think I’m being too excessive with my criticism. What can I say, it’s just not for me.

  36. Rupert Bear Reply

    I am in Rome, and was just turned away from a Korean restaurant. I do not know why, but after some quick googling I found this article and discussion, and it appears that maybe I was not wanted for a number of reasons….. don’t think I’ll be visiting the country any time soon

  37. Anonymous Indian Guy Reply

    I am in Korea right now with my wife. We have traveled to South Africa, Malaysia, Thailand, and have always found wonderful friendly local people, regardless of any language barriers or ethnicity or cultural differences. South Koreans are the worst, most inhospitable people I have encountered so far. I have been here ten days now and have found maybe ONE person who had any basic politeness. People who disagree can disagree, but facts are facts. These people are cold and inhospitable. Not recommended and will never return.

  38. JD Reply

    Great article. I think you said some things right out of my mind. Thank you. My wife and I live in South Korea.

    Her side of the family had to move out of their apartment due to re-development of the apartment complex. They now live nearby at a single story small apartment they call a “villa” until the construction is over. The construction will be for the smaller Complex 1 first, and they plan to move on to Complex 2. Complex 1 is almost over, and now it’s time to do the larger Complex 2. They’ve cleared out everything and evacuated everyone. All they need to do now is the demolition. And get this. This is so very Korean : Complex 1 and the surrounding “villa” (mind you these owners don’t live in the area, they only lease out apartment rooms) are constantly sending in complaints to halt demolition of Complex 2.

    As to why? BECAUSE THEY CAN. Ridiculous no? I suppose for the surrounding “villa” owners. Once Complex 2 is done with construction, their tenants will return back to their real house. But that’s still no humanly acceptable reason to oppose the construction.

    But as for Complex 1?? They already have their place, which everyone had to endure during construction phase, which nothing unpleasant anyways. But now that they have their place completed they protest going ahead with Complex 2? Mind them, the longer the construction the longer the rent expense and or bank debt interest expenses for Complex 2 residents. It all doesn’t matter.

    I’m sure anyone reading this wouldn’t understand and my post here may even sound surreal. But ask anyone a bit older in South Korea. They’ll understand that it’s very possible. It’s a Korean thing. Crazy stuff. I really want to leave here, srsly.

  39. Stupid korean Reply

    yea … fucking rude stupid korean… chase customer out because can’t speak korean…
    Might as well put banner no tourist …

  40. William J Ellis Reply

    Just visited seoul for 5 days, won’t return. I live in Thailand and have traveled to almost all ASEAN countries. They all have their moments, but the outright hostility I’ve encountered can’t be ignored. Hope others have a better experience.

  41. Anonymous Reply

    This article may seem harsh but I agree with many of the points. I live here for almost 1.5 years and got to the point where I feel uncomfortable walking outside. I’m a 6’1 white guy from Canada and notice people always staring at me. There are many things I can say that are both good and bad about this country, but overall my tolerance for their culture diminishes by the day. Just know that no matter how long you live in Korea, unless you’re born (or look like a Korean) you will never be truly accepted by the society. Also, regardless of how “developed” the country is – it is technologically advanced – people’s way of thinking and approach in this country is decades behind.

    1. Anonymous2 Reply

      Only thing harsh about your comment is that you’ve publicized your weakness of ur retarded mind on here and I don’t believe that the korean ppl stared at you everywhere u go, maybe it’s u doing the staring. Just because ur broke canadian ass feel uncomfortable walking outside doesnt mean we dont (We all do) I’ve lived here for 11 years and still feel uncomfortable walking outside, so I drive instead on my nice bmw that I leased. Just go back to Canada is my strong advice, the 25k-30k won might be big back in ur country but wont help you here man.

  42. Nkstrike Reply

    I can assure you Japanese people are exactly the same towards non white foreigners. While I visited Tokyo no one even wanted to make an effort to help when asking questions in English and I wondered why there was so much misinformation regarding how kind the Japanese are. It may have been they just thought I was a non Japanese Asian and just as much as Koreans look down upon Southeast Asians and other races so do the Japanese. What you felt was a xenophobic rudeness is just an open honest reaction to what the Japanese fascists taught Korea about a superior race. Japanese are known to be good at hiding contempt or true feelings compared to Koreans’ abrupt a d open way of expressing themselves. This xenophobia and rudeness can of course be experienced in many parts of the U.S. as well especially NYC in the rudeness arena. Whilst I agree you are correct in feeling the way you do about Korea dont neglect the fact that a deeper understanding of the whole aspect of people’s characteristics is needed.

  43. Keita Reply

    Lmao this is real talk though. The only time I went there for a student trip, I was received warmly until they realised I was Japanese and was turned away from establishments and given subpar service when I couldn’t speak their assfuck language.

    No amount of brain dead, plasticised k-pop idols, third-rate food, and plethora of seemingly well-bred international students will make me believe otherwise that the fucking nation is any better than their Northern brother. They’re just as delusional and narcissistic.

    I live in Canada now but people here think they’re so fucking nice but it’s only because they can’t fucking speak English. I’ve had classmates who I helped write essays and understand whatever the professors were talking about, only for them to talk about my old canadian goose coat behind my back. I’m all for heritage but I’ll take the westernised Koreans over the homogenous ones. They’re dressed immaculately but I wouldn’t take a shit on their faces if theywere the last toilets on earth.

  44. Iva Reply

    After living in Korea for three years I disagree with Anthony. The situation is much worse than what you are describing. And if you do not live here some things are just impossible to comprehend.

    On the outside Koreans have very high opinion about themselves yet inside they are utterly miserable. TV dramas at their core are realistic picture of dysfunctional society which only Koreans are allowed to criticize. So, if you decide to come to Korea you will live Korean drama unfiltered, in person. No need to watch it. Guarantee.

    For example: If you have a land in a rural area and do not live there, the neighbors will be happily farming, profiteering of your property. Lawyers are very expensive in Korea so this goes on and on for generations. The neighbors will put graves of their relatives on your property so they can claim the ownership. They will even go so far, to bribe a government officials at the City hall to become illegally the “legal” owners of your land. You might never be able to get them out of your property or get your property back. The real estate law means absolutely nothing, zilch, nada. Third world country at its best regarding land protection or medical protection.

    Korea is the number one nation in the world in students suicide, old people suicide and alcoholism. They drink more than Russians which is quite impressive accomplishment.

    So called “pali, pali” culture, meaning we are busy people, is nothing more than 75% of laziness and 25% of doing things quickly at the last moment and under a lot of the stress.
    Their drinking addiction usually starts at the time they attend the university, stress before the exam, stress release after the exam. You get my drift.
    White collar culture is so horrible that people hate going to work. Bullying in the office, school or home is common. Hence the high depression rate (students, adults, elderly). The elderly usually commit suicide by hanging or drinking a weed poison (Round Top comes to mind).
    Younger Koreans want to leave Korea desperately because of sexism, ageism and lack of jobs. I do not blame them.

    If you ask for help, please, do not expect any.
    “I will help you” is a nice lip service. They are genuinely disinterested in helping you because you are a foreigner and you will leave the country sooner or later. They just have to waited out.
    Koreans are masters in delegating their work to someone else. They will send you on merry go round ride and feel good about themselves because you just became problem of somebody else. Very poor work attitude here. They do not accept any personal responsibility for anything, period.
    Go away, leave me alone, do not ask me, do not bother me vibes, that’s what you get.
    If you dare to persist they will become openly hostile, one anger fit after another. The highlight is always the loud yelling. No filter, no self-control.

    They make a lot of promises but rarely keep them. “I’ll call you back”, usually means “you will never hear from me again”.
    Are you foreigner who doesn’t speak Korean? That is your problem.
    Learn Korean, it is a special language in their 51 million universe.

    You have to have a lot of money, good haircut, Prada clothes, shoes and Rolex to be an acceptable member of Korean society, otherwise forget about it. As I was told, if you do not wear nice clothes, you are insulting their refined taste and make them feel uncomfortable around you. The same reasoning explains the plastic surgeries. This shallowness is Korean number one trademark.

    I’ve never experienced so much unforgiveness and judgment like in Korea.
    They have it towards foreigners, their own family members and generally the rest of the world. When they are judging others they feel much better about themselves (as young Korean told me) so they do it frequently. Something like a self-esteem pick me up, a favorite Korean past time. To forgive is totally alien concept, especially children (doesn’t matter how old they are) do not forgive their parents.

    Other not so admirable qualities are rudeness and selfishness, here normal modus operandi.
    I do not understand this society hating on their own older generation. I assume it is money related. If you are old and give me your money than you are being useful to me. Otherwise you can just die. Hospitals will help you with that: cancer induced treatment, no proper treatment, hiding medical mistakes, shredding medical records…no shame in that in Korea.

    No qualms about lying, half-truths or cheating. Doctors, nurses, government employees, landlords, businesses, mortuary employees…It is frustrating and occasionally deadly.
    The usual amount awarded to the family of patient who died of malpractice is US$5000.
    Please, do not come here for ANY kind of medical treatment, you might never leave alive.

    Generally, Koreans love to read your mail, if they can get hold of it.
    They will pick it up from your mail box and take it home for a couple of days. Sometimes they might even open it.
    To live in a house with one water meter for two, three households, is a lesson in Korean culture 101. The owner will hide her family members living at home for months so they can save a few bucks a month and you are stuck to pay for their water usage. If you complain, they will just deny it.

    What does get to me is when I go to any office, they grab the unrelated papers I am holding in my hand without asking and will proceed to read them. They enjoy to ask private questions without blushing and think nothing of it. Please, be advised, there is no such a thing as privacy anywhere in Korea!

    So, in order to survive here you NEED to develop a thick skin. An excellent mental stability is must have. Koreans are no psychologists, a “subtle” doesn’t work here.
    If you end up depressed, suicidal, broke or otherwise handicapped Nobody will help you. You will find more compassion for a street dog here than a foreigner.

    Make no mistake about it, these people are no joke. They will leave you down in the dust watching you getting suicidal and waiting…

    If you desperately want to come to Asia, please, consider to live in another country.
    Korea will leave you with scars you might never recover from. After living here I lost my faith in humanity and consider coming here the biggest mistake of my life.

  45. Winston Reply

    This article is unfortunately on point, if anything it doesn’t underline just how bad things can be. The human element in Korea is overshadowed by the most trivial superficialities. You can make connections with people in fits and starts, but those same people will turn their backs on you when their desires come knocking. They are stuck in the most stagnant group mentality one could ever imagine. The word racism doesn’t exist, it’s so imbedded that it’s just a known factor. There’s no need to even discuss it, anyone outside of Koreans society exists in different levels of 2nd rate human and below. There’s no real friendships, just totem pole relationships built out of someone’s selfish need. The best you can hope for is to be that token person, but make no mistake you’re still 2nd rate….

  46. Philip Owino Reply

    Hi Anthony, sad to read that the trip didn’t meat your expectations. I know this is a difficult time to travel but you should consider Africa more often in your travels. I guess you have already visited Kenya, South Africa and Tanzania. Why not try Congo? Yes. I know there is this talk of Ebola and all but it is one place you won’t regret. I recommend hiking mount Nyirangongo. It is the only Lava Lake where tourists can pay to see a boiling lava lake up-close. You would be doing something very different and that you will remember for the rest of your life.