A foreigner and his Korean wife were attacked by an old Korean man, after they had just saved the life of his young granddaughter.
Leo Mendoza and his Korean wife, Jin, were attacked by an extremely racist and aggressive Korean man while his daughter and wife stood nearby watching. The incident occurred after Jin had just saved the life of a little girl, who was the old man’s granddaughter.
The story was posted to Leo’s Facebook, where he described in horrifying detail the trauma that he and his wife experienced. Not only was he attacked by this man, Leo and Jin were constantly berated for being a mixed couple.
The story gets even more horrifying when police are called to the scene and end up taking the racist Korean man’s side. The police officers do not stop the man from berating Jin, calling her derogatory words and insulting her for dating a foreigner. They eventually place Leo under arrest instead of the old man, despite photo and video evidence of the attack on him.
Read the full story posted by Leo Mendoza below:
“Yesterday my wife (who is Korean) and I spent about 4 hours dealing with a confrontation, and at every step the racism of the adversary escalated, and the inaction of the police was appalling. Here’s the story.
After shopping at Costco, we were going up the escalator towards the parking lot. On the escalator there was a Korean family consisting of a child, young mother, grandmother, and a very fit and agile grandfather. The child was running all over the place. The adults were walking separately, with the mother about 5 meters in front of us, and the grandparents 2 meters behind us. The child kept running back and forth between them.
We were parked at the very far end of the lot, and it turns out their car was also on the same line as ours. This meant for approximately 50 meters we all walked together, with the child continuing to run back and forth. Our cars were parked at the end lane, which also happens to be the main entrance for cars coming into the parking lot. Cars are coming up a hill, so the drivers’ line of sight is elevated, making things low to the ground not easily visible.
The mother crossed the road alone, and opened the car door. She was not paying attention to the child; at that moment the child was behind us, near the grandparents. Then, suddenly the child ran past us and straight across the car lane. There was a car coming into the parking lot at the same moment, and the driver did not see the child, continuing to drive at speed.
At this moment, Jin instinctively screamed. Her scream startled the driver, who hit the brakes and avoided hitting the child by centimeters.
There is no doubt in my mind that Jin saved that child’s life with that scream. ( I screamed too, a few milliseconds after her)
And at that point, all hell broke lose. The Koreans yelled at Jin. They were angry that Jin startled their child by screaming! Jin yelled back, telling them that the kid almost got hit by a car, and telling them to mind their child. I also yelled at them, that their kid was in danger.
You would expect that they would be groveling in apologies, and showing us with gratitude for saving the child’s life. But instead of that, they yelled: Why do you care what we do? This is not your child. The sentence was said insultingly (In Korean, the verb conjugation one chooses can turn any sentence into a disrespectful insult). Jin and I started loading our stuff in our car, and they in theirs. But the man was not helping the women load. Instead he was glaring at Jin, in a stance that showed he was thinking of coming at us. He then yelled at me a Korean swearword that is equivalent to “son of a bitch”. Jin screamed back at him, “what did you say? How dare you say that? We were just helping your child! You were the irresponsible ones!”.
He kept glaring at us, and I knew what he was about to do. He suddenly came at us, and the moment I saw him move I went to intercept him. He was coming to attack Jin. I stood in his way blocking him, chest to chest. He kept shoving himself towards Jin, who was standing behind me. I was attempting to hold my ground, with my hands behind my back. I had to back about 5 steps with him shoving himself into me. He was clearly intent on getting to Jin. Then suddenly with his hands he pushed me hard, and I fell to the ground backwards. As I fell, he came on top of me, and he looked about to start punching me. I kept my hands down, and instead started yelling POLICE, POLICE! (in korean). This stopped him from actually punching me, but he remained on top of me. Jin took pictures with her phone, but suddenly the mother grabbed Jin’s phone from her hand, and kept it. At this point some Costco workers arrived, and they told him to get up.
When he got up, he started saying a non stop flow of insults, at me, at Jin, and of course, all were racist. He insulted Jin for being a Korean woman with a foreign man, and called me all sorts of racist words. He didn’t care that there were people around, just kept going on. I pulled out my phone to film his insults, and he punched my hand very hard, knocking the phone to the ground.
Jin took pictures and videos of him on top of me attacking. I took video of him punching my phone to the ground. At this point, Jin grabbed her phone back, and called the police.
It took about 10 minutes for the police to arrive. The entire time, the man kept swearing racistly at us. When two police officers arrived, he continued swearing with racism. He did not care that cops were there.Everything was explained to the cops by both sides, and the cops permitted him to continue his insults.
This is the point from which we felt the police were clearly against us. The cops kept telling us: Just go home. This is not a serious issues. No real violence or injury happened. Only a minor physical attack. It will take a long time to file a police report, maybe a few hours, so you should just leave. If he apologizes to you, why don’t you just go?
The man had spent about 30 minutes of non stop swearing and racism. I knew he had no intention to sincerely apologize. I asked the cops: Is the way he attacked me legal? Don’t I have video and picture evidence of him attacking me, with me not attacking back, or even raising hands to defend myself?
See, one important thing to note is that I know that as a foreigner, I cannot lay a hand on a Korean. I’ve heard enough stories to know better. But I am not a small and weak man. I’m out of shape, yes, but I know how to fight, with military training in hand-to-hand combat, that was used in real life. I could have easily subdued and restrained him. But instead, I restrained myself, simply trying to protect my wife from this crazed man.
The police had to reluctantly agree that if I wanted to submit a police report, I had a right to. So the cops, Jin, and I got in the police car and headed to their local police station.
At the police station, the whole story had to be told again to a higher ranked police officer. We told our side calmly, and the man told his side, while continuing to insult both of us, and say even more racist things. IN FRONT OF THE COPS!
The cops did nothing to stop him from the insults. They just every once in a while meekly said: Sir, don’t say such things. He would dismiss them and keep insulting.
We were appalled at how he could say such racist and vulgar things in the police station, but we could tell little by little that the cops were angry at me for pursuing my decision to file a police report against him. The senior officer kept telling us to go home, to not waste so much time, and tried to encourage us to drop everything. I asked them if I had the legal right to file a report, multiple times, and the officer begrudgingly admitted that yes, I had the right.
Meanwhile, the man started to change his story. He started to say that his knee hurt when he got on top of me, and then started saying that HE was the victim. That I pulled him on top of me…
The cops jumped on this. Their glee was palpable. They brought a camera, and started asking him: where are you hurt? And taking pictures of his knee and other parts that suddenly got injured. I spoke out: Hey, my shoulder hurts where I landed on the ground. They took a picture of my shoulder. Reluctantly, in my opinion.
Then the senior office said to me: I don’t believe that you were pushed down. You are so fat! There’s no way anyone could push you! I said “It is just physics. Anything can be pushed if there’s enough leverage and no counterbalance. Of course he can push me down!”
Then, they started printing out some documents, and called ME (only me) to come sign them. Documents in Korean. I was told that one of the documents was the Miranda Rights. At that moment I say :Wait? Are you ARRESTING ME???
They said yes. you are under arrest for attacking this man, and you are guilty until you can prove you are innocent.
That’s right. The Korean police arrested me for trying to file a police report against a Korean who attacked me physically.
This is the country I live in.
I refused to sign any documents without a lawyer present. They allowed me not to sign, but still filed me as arrested. Jin and I were shocked.
The entire time at the police station was horrifying. The cops allowed the man to say all those racist insults at me and at her for being with me, and tried to punish us.
At that point, I realized that the police would not help us at all. They were 100% defending the Korean against the foreigner. And they kept telling us: You can stop this whole process, just simply say you don’t want to continue, and you can go home. Otherwise, it will take us about 3 more hours to process you.
There’s a point where you have to say “Fuck it.” That was my point.
I said, ok, fine. We will not continue. And like magic, the cops said Great! They put the guy in a chair in front of us, and told him to apologize nicely. He gave a very insincere apology, and then we were given a document to sign that stated: We will not pursue this matter anymore, and everything is settled. I signed, Jin signed, and the man signed. Then he was allowed to leave.
I however was NOT allowed to leave the station. Because I was still under arrest. They said that because I was a foreigner, They had to take all my ten fingerprints. So we had to wait about 15 minutes more while each of my fingers was scanned 3 times.
I know I’m a foreigner. But I guess after my 16 years here, I was in a false sense of security that made me think Korea was welcoming to me. But the true reality came out last night. Koreans don’t like us foiregners. They tolerate us. But when they get agitated enough, for a lot of them (not all) the racism comes out. There were at least ten police officers who witnessed the man’s vile behavior. And not a single one stopped it.
Busan Police is a disappointment, and I know nothing will change. The only thing I can do is warn fellow foreigners: AVOID confrontation with Koreans. Do not get involved in stranger’s lives. Do not attempt to help strangers. Even if you save their child’s life, they will still mess you up.
Had I been foolish and punched or raised my arms at the man, even in self defense, I have no doubt I’d be sitting in a Jail cell right now, and probably be deported in a few months.”
— Leo Mendoza
Since the post was made it has gone incredibly viral, not just amongst foreigners but also Korean citizens. Korean users have commented on Leo’s original post, expressing their outrage at the police officers behavior as well as the old man. The comments continued to pour in and eventually, Busan‘s Police Chief heard about the incident and reached out to Leo and Jin to apologize.
Leo has since updated his post with additional information and how the Busan Police Chief has promised to ensure incidents like this do not occur again.
“As our story has been spreading out, it came to the attention of the officer in charge of the Busan Police Department Facebook page, and this person contacted us for a very polite follow up. The story was passed along to the District Police Office, and the Chief himself got involved. He personally called Jin, and over the course of last night and this morning they have exchanged multiple phone calls, discussing the situation in detail.
The Chief has apologized to us for the situation on behalf of his officers, and has said that he will increase the training and education for the personnel under him, to make sure they will be more aware of protecting the human rights of foreigners. I want to say that it has been incredibly professional of him to find a way to solve our issue, but beyond professionalism, it has been greatly humane of him to talk to us, to make efforts to understand us, and to enter in sincere dialogue about all of this.
It has been said in hundreds of comments that Korea is a nation undergoing change and social evolution as it has grown in the past several decades to be an advanced nation. That growth comes with some difficulties, and I think in this particular issue, with the increased training for police officers, there will be progress in this district.
My wife and I are grateful that we got such strong support from the Chief. Some people warned that perhaps the police authorities would take negative steps to silence me or punish me further, but the Chief has proved that there are authorities willing to listen to residents’ complaints and really to take action.
Moving to another side of the story, there have also been hundreds of Koreans commenting and messaging me who are reminding us that not all Koreans feel racism or xenophobia toward us foreigners. It has been encouraging to hear from this younger generation that is open minded, embracing of multicultural communities, and willing to take a stand to help Korea’s image change. Our story has been used for introspection by many, and we are thankful for this. Even the local newspaper, Busan ilbo has published an article today in both the print and online versions.
To us foreigners. Let us all be more aware of the fact that the change into multiculturalism has been fast and sudden for Korean society and laws. We are a rapidly grown section of the population, and the social infrastructure is still developing to deal with our concerns. But there are good men like the District Chief who are ready to listen when problems arise. This is what will ensure that Korea can develop into the nation we all wish to see. We should stop the negativity on our side, so that positive communication can develop.
Will there be racist people still? Of course. Just like every nation has racists. But it is my hope that with efforts such as what this District Police are making, the foreigners that suffer racial discrimination will no longer be afraid to pick up the phone and confidently call for police protection.”
— Leo Mendoza
The story has also been picked up by numerous Korean media and newspapers, including Busan Illbo and Yonhap News. Korean comments left on these websites have been supportive of Leo, expressing how disappointed they are at the actions of the old man.
Below are some of the comments, translated into English by Koreaboo:
[+996 / -3] Such a shameful act on behalf of the country. Nevermind being thankful for trying to help their child they got into a scruff?? Heol~~shows why the kid was running around playing in a parking lot. These are the parents that would put all the blame on the driver if an accident happened.
[+699 / -4] So embarassing.
[+658 / -1] Can’t say anything for sure on this because I didn’t see it with my own eyes but keep your children in check at parking lots whether it’s in supermarket parking or your apartment. You have to be super careful of the roads inside an apartment town as well.
[+560 / -4] Where did all their maturity and age go~ It’s because of people like them that Korea’s not a leading global country.
[+416 / -2] So many ways to show you’re an idiot.