Bonojit Hussain, the Indian research professor at the Sung Kong Hoe University in Seoul, who has become the face of the anti-racism campaign in that country, spoke at the National Assembly on Wednesday to “cheers” and “applause” from those gathered to listen to him.
Hussain, a victim of a racist attack, was invited to deliver a speech at the “Consultative Public Hearing” held at the National Assembly of Korea.
The hearing was organised by the main opposition party, the Democratic Party and National Human Rights Commission to debate the proposed “Anti-Racism bill drafted by a member of National Assembly.
“The hearing was open to general public and civil society groups and was attended by representatives of various civil groups, politicians, legal experts, scholars including representative from United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC), Korea,” Hussain told HT over the phone from Seoul.
Sounding happy at the response that he got, Hussain said, “There was a big applause after I finished. I got a very good response and the women were more jubilant as I had spoken about the problems faced by them in my speech.”
Recounting his experience – that triggered off heated debates on racism in South Korea — Hussain said that wasn’t the first time that he had faced race-based discrimination in the country.
“But that became a moment for me when I felt enough was enough. Me and my companion Jisun Han were subjected to severe racist abuses, which almost turned into a physical altercation while traveling in a public bus when a Korean man started yelling at me,” he told the gathering.
“When Ms. Han confronted him, he shouted her down and in fact kicked her,” he said.
Hussain said the incident “was not only racist in nature but it was also much gendered.”
Hussain added that he was more disturbed and shocked by how the police behaved when he approached them after the incident. Hussain said the man who abused him was just a citizen who hurled racial slurs, “but police department is one of the most important and prominent branches of the Korean state; if one of the most prominent branch of the State itself is racist then the argument can be put forth that Korean government as a structure is also racist.”
Hussain said he wanted to take a break and come to India.
“Eventually, I would come back permanently but right now I am looking for a short break as the last three months have been very challenging,” he said.
Asked if joining politics in India was an option in the future to carry on with his fight against inequality and racism, Husain said, “I have always been involved with political issues as a student and as an activist but have no plans of getting into mainstream politics.”