Yoon Seok-youl faces racism controversy with comment belittling Africa - The Korea Times
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Yoon Seok-youl faces racism controversy with comment belittling Africa

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Former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl talks with the students at Andong National University, North Gyeongsang Province, Sept. 13. / Screenshot from Andong National University Broadcasting Station (AUBS)
Former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl talks with the students at Andong National University, North Gyeongsang Province, Sept. 13. / Screenshot from Andong National University Broadcasting Station (AUBS)

By Lee Hae-rin

Former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl, a leading presidential contender of the conservative main opposition People Power Party (PPP), is being criticized for his comments belittling Africa as well as manual labor.

"Companies depend on internationally competitive technology. There is no such thing as hands and feet labor like people used to do anymore. India doesn't even do that anymore. It's something only a place like Africa still does," said Yoon during a meeting with students at Andong University in North Gyeongsang Province, Monday, in response to a question about youth unemployment.

Yoon's comments belatedly spread over social media platforms, raising controversy in political circles over their racist implications and assumptions of privilege. Several parties, including the PPP, condemned his discriminatory remarks and some demanded that he step down from running for president.

"Yoon's remarks show his narrow viewpoint on workers and on other nations," said a representative of the Yoo Seong-min campaign, demanding Yoon's apology to workers and other groups mentioned in the statement. Yoo, a four-term lawmaker, is also a presidential hopeful of the PPP.

The liberal ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) also denounced Yoon, saying that over 4 million Koreans are engaged in what Yoon called "hands and feet labor."

"It is questionable whether someone with such an outdated way of thinking qualifies to run for president of this country," a DPK representative said.

In response to the criticism, Yoon explained at a meeting with the press, Wednesday, that he intended to convey the importance of high levels of technical skills in economic growth.

"Good quality jobs inevitably have to come through technical skills, and simple labor is left for underdeveloped countries, as they lack such assets. I was just suggesting that the young generation sharpen their skills in high technology, in that regard," Yoon said.


Lee Hae-rin lhr@koreatimes.co.kr


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