03/17/2010, 00.00
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Russian racism against young Koreans

The South Korean Embassy calls on Russian authorities to protect the 2,000 South Koreans studying in Russia. Too often, they are beaten, some even killed. Russian Prime Minister Putin calls the situation “tragic”.
Moscow (AsiaNews) – Xenophobic and racist attacks are nothing new in Russia. The usual targets are people from the Caucasus, Tajikistan or Africa; increasingly, young South Koreans studying in Russia in exchange programmes are the victims of the same racist violence. The situation has deteriorated to such an extent that the South Korean Embassy has called on the Kremlin to ensure the safety of the 2,000 South Korean students present on the territory of the Russian Federation.

The latest episode on 7 March saw a masked man attack a South Korean student with a knife, injuring him on the neck. The 29-year-old is still listed in serious condition in hospital after undergoing surgery.

Last month in the Siberian city of Barnaul, capital of the Altai Krai, a group of young Russians beat to death a student from Gwangju. Police arrested three youths in connection with the attack, whose motive “cannot be reduced to theft” according to South Korean diplomats posted in Russia.

The Korea Herald is now reporting that South Korean students feel vulnerable, afraid that racist attacks might continue. Trusting Russian authorities is another issue, according to the paper, because the latter are already hard pressed with a wave of racist attacks in the country.

Attacks against non-European looking residents are a daily occurrence in Russia. However, Russian authorities claim that the number of racist crimes dropped last year following a crackdown against extremist elements. In February, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said that the problem of racism in Russia was “tragic”, but insisted that the police response corresponded to the level of threat.

Yet, many human rights groups continue to deplore t general atmosphere of impunity that pervades the country because courts tend to treat xenophobic violence as mere vandalism.

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