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I'm a Korean and I have seen a TV show where foreigners currently staying in Korea showed up and began speaking about how it is not correct to refer to them as foreigners(외국인/wee-guk-in) - Korean word for foreigners. I do see a point that in their perspective, a word foreigner may have negative connotations since perhaps in their culture, referring to a person as foreigner is an improper thing to do. But my question is, in Korea, we don't usually refer to foreigner as foreigner with negative implications. In fact, if we wanted to insult them, we would instead use words like 양키(to insult white people), 깜둥이(to insult black people) and more - imagine word like Japs used during the WWII to insult Japanese. So here is my question. Does really a word foreigner have negative implications and if so, what are the ways to refer to foreigners without actually using that particular word and not make them feel bad?


Added from here

For clarification, the mention on PC was deemed necessary for me since the TV program itself somewhat intended such flavor. However, I removed that since I didn't want to make a political arguments here. Apologies if anyone was offended by my thoughtlessness. Going back to the point, the casts on the program(non-Koreans currently staying in Korea) insisted that Koreans should not address non-Koreans as foreigners since the word has negative connotations. So firstly, I wanted to know if it is true that in English the word foreigner has negative feelings. Secondly, I wanted to know, if that is how the word foreigner is accepted among general population or if its what those casts on the TV think. Also, sorry if my question don't fit the language category. Perhaps I took the boundary of the category little too widely. I came to ask a question here since my English-Korean dictionary didn't give me any clue on my questions.

I don't intend to spark another fight on the internet. Forgive me if I sounded improper - this is the first time asking a question on non-Korean community, and I have no experience on the real world or on the internet outside Korea. I guess I tried to explain unnecessary context too much and that created vulgar taste for some people that kindly gave me their thoughts. Thanks in advance.

closed as off-topic by Nathan Tuggy, Kinzle B, ColleenV May 3 '18 at 11:54

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  • FYI, calling Japanese "Japs" would make you fairly certain to insult them. Is that your intention? – Robusto May 1 '18 at 2:02
  • Was this TV show a TV show translated into Korean from English? There are circumstances in the U.S. where the word "foreigner" is ill-intended—even a dialectic, variant spelling "furriner" that is sometimes used to represent ignorant mistrust of foreigners. But there are also times when it just means someone from another country. Anyway, I'm having trouble discerning whether your question even has to do with the English language (since I don't know if the TV show is English in origin). Even if it's translated from English, your question has a political element, with your "PC" comment. – joiedevivre May 1 '18 at 2:26
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it asks a cultural question, not a language one. Any implication will depend on the context where used. – user3169 May 1 '18 at 2:36
  • When you say "non-Koreans" are you talking about citizenship or ethnicity? What is particularly insulting in English-speaking countries is when someone who is not white is assumed to be a foreigner, despite being a naturalized or native-born citizen (perhaps their grandparents came from Korea). – Canadian Yankee May 1 '18 at 13:52
  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because we would need to understand the connotations of the Korean word to answer the question properly and our community's expertise is in English. – ColleenV May 3 '18 at 11:54
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Thanks for your clarification. I'm still not entirely confident about what you are asking, but I would say that it is true in the U.S., at least, that the word "foreigner" often has negative connotations. Generally speaking, no one word is a great substitute, though. For example:

If I wanted to talk about a group of South Koreans, I would probably call them "South Koreans."

If the group was from multiple countries, I'd probably choose something that had to do with why they were here, like "tourists" or "exchange students."

If I wanted some word that applied to all people in the U.S. who weren't U.S. citizens, I'd choose "noncitizens."

If I wanted a word to apply to naturalized U.S. citizens, I might choose "first-generation immigrants" or something.

It's all contextual.

The word "foreigner" is problematic because it immediately brands people as "other." It's synonymous with "aliens." It might be okay to use it if you are talking about people from other countries who are just visiting (the "tourists," say), as long as you don't sound xenophobic, but naturalized citizens are "Americans," not "foreigners," if you see what I mean.

For example, imagine your grandmother had a brother who moved to America and became a U.S. citizen. You have distant cousins who grew up in America, and their parents grew up in America, but some Americans call them "foreigners," because they look Asian. They have never lived in any other country, but some Americans consider them "foreign." This is the reality in America that makes "foreigners" a sometimes offensive term. It may not make sense in your culture, but I hope it helps explain why the term can sometimes be offensive in U.S. English.

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