Shortly after I landed in Korea in 2007, I wandered into a bar mostly English speakers – a foreigner bar –  and asked what it was like living here. “The Koreans are bad,” a man said, took a sip of beer and fell off the stool.

Today, after nearly eight years after my arrival here, I still hear the misfortunes of being a foreigner in Korea. The prejudice. The absurd questions. The evil hakwon owners and much much more. Now, if your interested in details of all that, gander over Dave’s ESL forums and you’ll be treated to trenches of every ill ever visited upon expats, the preferred term to foreigner.

But what interests me are blunders in poor PR. The kind of PR that expats encounter that gives Korea a bad name. There’s the whole Africa Cigarette thing, sure, but I think a subtle example of poor PR comes from the very department sworn to protect, the police.

Korean Police Dummy

Of course Police are going to have plenty of opportunities for bad and at times shameful PR. (Ahem, the US.) But bad PR shouldn’t come in the form of an FAQ.

At what moments would your really need to contact the police in Korea? Well, the Seoul Police department says these are the most FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

  1. How can I deal with fraud I experienced through the internet?
  2. I want to report a foreigner for misconduct (sex trade and trafficking, or gambling)
  3. I would like to report a traffic inconvenience (the bottleneck etc.)
  4. I want to report a foreigner who is residing in this country illegally.
  5. I am looking for a person.
  6. My company doesn’t pay wages.
  7. I would like to receive a copy of my criminal record.
  8. I lost my article.
  9. What is the standard of drunk driving and punishment?

I mean, perhaps these are the most frequently asked questions, but really, there seems no gradation or sense given to the presentation of these questions. A categorization of sex trafficking and heavy traffic on the same page?

Also, disturbingly, why do the police assume expats would be the ones guilty of sex trade and trafficking? It’s my understanding that in Korea the sex trade has a long history.

And reporting a foreigner who is here in the country? I’m not even sure where to begin with that one.

This FAQ looks, reads, and feels half-assed. It is unfortunate since I have had more positive experiences here with the police in Korea than in most other countries I’ve been to. (Here police don’t immediately assume that you’re a threat when you approach them with a question.)

Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but the rest of the website doesn’t feel all that inviting either. Then again, at what point are you in your life when you need to check out the Korean Police website?

My excuse is I was doing some research for a book.

Deliberate Practice Writing Exercise:

Read the questions straight down and imagine them as the beats to a story. Write that story. Crazy goodness I bet.

#1 Photo Credit: simonhunterwilliams1 via Compfight cc
#2 Photo Credit: World of Good via Compfight cc

What people ask the Korean Police, an FAQ