SEOUL, April 11 (Korea Bizwire) – As South Korea and China continue to clash head on in both politics and environmental issues, the anti-Chinese sentiment in South Korea is seeing a notable increase.
In addition to political conflict over the deployment of an American THAAD missile system that has devastated the South Korean tourism industry, the growing issue of air pollution in South Korea, in which many suspect China plays a major role, is adding to the fuel of anti-Chinese sentiment, resulting in online comments slamming China on major news websites.
According to the Ministry of Environment’s air quality monitoring system, fine dust warnings were issued 14 times from January to March. Compared to five days in 2015, and two days in 2016, around 10 more warnings were issued by the same time this year.
As of late, the comments sections of major web portals have been laden with comments slamming China’s complicity in the worsening air quality in South Korea, while criticizing the South Korean government for failing to stand up to officials in Beijing.
One comment read, “Speak up against the Chinese government,” while others aimed frustration at the South Korean government.
Some used strong language, asking Chinese people to take fine dust with them to China.
The combination of the row over the THAAD deployment and fine dust issues between the two countries is exacerbating the relationship even on a personal level.
Since Lotte Group agreed to sell land to the South Korean government to host a THAAD anti-missile system, Lotte Mart has been blatantly targeted in a series of economic retaliatory acts that saw most of its stores in China shut down, with no sign of a let up.
On social media, angry comments targeting China are spreading like wildfire.
Comments such as the following ensued: “We should’ve been the ones that retaliated against China,” and “What can be done to get back at China on the issue of fine dust?”
Some suggested ramping up efforts to crack down on illegal Chinese fishing boats, while others suggested South Koreans follow in the footsteps of their Chinese neighbors by boycotting Chinese companies and products.
A few comments took extreme views bordering on racism, suggesting all Chinese nationals living in South Korea be deported.
As the rows over THAAD and fine dust continue in the face of growing tensions over North Korea’s alleged nuclear tests and the next South Korean presidential election scheduled for May, uncertainty looms over the future of South Korea-China relations.
Hyunsu Yim (firstname.lastname@example.org)