Black in Asia: a Seoul brother chronicles Korea
In this new series we gather anecdotes from Saffers on how weird travelling in Korea as a black African can be
Being a black South African gets complicated when you leave our borders. In Africa, you are either those people who let all the white people off the hook or those whose enjoy occasional xenophobic bloodletting. Most other places generally tend to ignore you until you open your mouth, at which point a debate about whether or not you are Australian or British will break out. But there are few places in the world that are quite as strange to be a melanated African than Asia.
It probably has something to do with the highly homogeneous populations in many Asian countries, combined with TV, but being black in that part of the world can be an unsettling and hilarious experience.
The first time I went to South Korea I was dazzled. In so many ways it couldn’t be more different than SA. There is a faintly perceptible air of OCD in the air blowing through Seoul. It’s beautiful, fun and pristine, but as mesmerised as I was, so were some of the equally, though politely, stunned people passing by me. A friend I was with had warned me that many Koreans had only ever seen black people on TV, so I should expect stares, but perhaps I hadn’t taken that warning seriously enough...