Asia Life

Why is South Korea So Anti-Semitic?

Recent Features

Asia Life

Why is South Korea So Anti-Semitic?

A new survey finds that South Koreans are more than twice as likely to be anti-Semitic as the global average.

Why is South Korea So Anti-Semitic?
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

There is a remarkable amount of anti-Semitism in South Korea, according to a new survey released by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

On Tuesday the New York-based ADL released the results of its ADL Global 100: An Index of Anti-Semitism. Based on interviews of 53,100 adults in 102 countries and territories, the Global 100 seeks to “establish, for the first time, a comprehensive data-based research survey of the level and intensity of anti-Jewish sentiment across the world.”

It does this by asking respondents a series of 11 questions and ranking the interviewee as anti-Semitic if they answer true or probably true to six or more of these questions. The ADL has used a similar metric for measuring levels of anti-Semitism in the United States for the past 50 years.

Overall, Asia displayed remarkably little anti-Semitism relative to the rest of the world. Only 22 percent of respondents in Asia were anti-Semitic according to the ADL metric, the lowest in any region in the world except Oceania (where only 14 percent of respondents were anti-Semitic) and the Americas (19 percent of respondents were rated as anti-Semitic).

This 22 percent is particularly noteworthy given the presence of numerous Muslim majority countries including Indonesia, Malaysia and Bangladesh. Of course, by all means not all Muslims are necessarily anti-Semitic. Still, the survey results suggest there is a link given that 74 percent of respondents in the Middle East and North Africa were considered anti-Semitic by the ADL, and there were fairly high levels of anti-Semitism in Muslim majority countries outside the greater Middle East including Malaysia (61 percent) and Indonesia (48 percent).

One of the largest surprises in the survey were the results for South Korea. According to the ADL metric, an astounding 53 percent of the population were found to by anti-Semitic. This compares unfavorably to the just 20 percent of Chinese and 23 percent of Japanese respondents who were also found to hold anti-Semitic viewpoints. In non-Muslim majority countries in Southeast Asian countries, the percentage of respondents holding anti-Semitic viewpoints was even lower. For example, in Laos just 0.2 percent of those surveyed held anti-Semitic viewpoints, along with 3 percent in the Philippines and 6 percent in Vietnam.

South Korea’s level of anti-Semitism not only surpassed the Muslim majority countries of Indonesia and Bangladesh (32 percent of respondents held anti-Semitic views), but also put it on part with Iran where 56 percent of respondents were found to be anti-Semitic. The 53 percent of South Koreans who were found to be anti-Semitic was also more than double the global average of 26 percent of the population. It was also substantially higher than the 37 percent of all Muslims living in Asia who were found to hold anti-Semitic viewpoints.

The Global 100 survey asked respondents the following 11 true or false questions questions, and—as noted above—rated someone as anti-Semitic if they “probably true” to six or more of them:

  1. Jews are more loyal to Israel than to this [the respondent’s] country (or countries they live in for nations where Jewish people represent less than 0.01 percent of the total population.)
  2. Jews have too much power in the business world
  3. Jews have too much power in international financial markets
  4. Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust
  5. Jews don’t care what happens to anyone but their own kind
  6. Jews have too much control over global affairs
  7. Jews have too much control over the United States government
  8. Jews think they are better than other people
  9. Jews have too much control over the global media
  10. Jews are responsible for most of the world’s wars
  11. People hate Jews because of the way Jews behave

In South Korea, a majority of respondents answered “probably true” to questions 1-3, 6, 8, and 9. A whopping 65 percent of respondents in South Korea answered probably true to the first question about whether Jews are more loyal to Israel or the countries they live in. Similarly, almost 60 percent of South Koreans said that Jews have too much power in the business world (59 percent) and in international financial markets (57 percent).

It’s unclear why anti-Semitism runs so high in South Korea. According to the Virtual Jewish Library, the Jewish community in South Korea is virtually non-existent. The same could be said about most of Asia, however. The American government has also promoted Jewish cultural (along with other religions in the United States) awareness in South Korea. Israel and South Korea also have long-standing and relatively robust diplomatic and economic ties.