Student Muaz Razak, 25, a Ph.D. student in computer science from Pakistan: ''There is a difference between protest and harassment. What they were doing was harassment.''

''Human beings are naturally biased, but don't let that bias lead you to depriving other people of their fundamental human rights,'' said Ashraf  Akintola, a Ph.D. student in biomedical engineering from Nigeria and one of the Muslim worshippers in Daegu.

Mr. Akintola said he felt sad when a Korean protester followed him last year shouting, ''Leave our country!''

Back in Nigeria, he said K-pop was so popular that his friends learned to speak Korean.

Inside the dimly lit house, young Muslim students and men knelt and prayed in silence. Outside, their Korean neighbors gathered with angry signs to protest '' a den of terrorists '' moving into their neighborhoods.

In a densely populated but otherwise quiet district in Daegu, a city in south eastern South Korea, a highly emotional standoff is underway.

Roughly 150 Muslims, mostly students at the nearby Kyungpook National University, started building a mosque in a lot next door to their temporary house of worship about a year ago. When their Korean neighbors found out they were furious.

The mosque would turn the neighborhood of Daehyeon-dong into ''an enclave of Muslims and a crime-infested slum,'' the Korean neighbors wrote on signs and protest banners. It would bring more ''noise'' and a '' food smell '' from an unfamiliar culture, driving out the Korean residents.

The Muslim students and their Korean supporters fought back, arguing that they had the right to live and pray in peace in Daegu, one of the most politically conservative cities in South Korea.

The fault line between the two communities has exposed an uncomfortable truth in South Korea.

At a time when the country enjoys some global influence than ever - with consumers around the world eager to dance to its music, drive its cars and buy its smartphones - it is also grappling with a fierce wave of anti-immigrant fervor and Islamophobia.

While it has successfully exported its culture abroad, it has been slow to welcome other cultures at home.

The mosque dispute has become a flashpoint, part of a larger phenomenon in which South Koreans have had to confront what it means to live in an increasingly diverse society. Muslims have often borne the brunt of racist misgivings, particularly after the Taliban executed two South Korean missionaries in 2007.

The arrival of 500 Yemeni asylum seekers on the island of Jeju in 2018 set off South Korea's first series of organized anti-immigrant protests. The government responded to fears that the asylum seekers were harboring terrorists by banning them from leaving the island.

''Their rules on the hijab alone are enough reason that they should never set foot in our country,'' said Lee Hyung-oh, the leader of Refugee Pot, a nation-wide anti-immigration network that opposes the mosque in Daegu.

Many Koreans explain their attitude toward foreigners by citing history :

Their small nation has survived invasions and occupations for centuries, maintaining its territory, language and ethnic identity.

Those who oppose the mosque and immigration more broadly have often warned that an influx of foreigners would threaten South Korea's ''pure blood'' and ''ethnic homogeneity.''

''We may look exclusionist, but it has made us what we are, consolidating us as a nation to survive war, colonial rule and financial crisis and achieve economic development while speaking the same language, thinking the same thoughts,'' Mr. Lee said.

''I don't think we could have done this with diversity,'' he added.'' We are not xenophobic. We just don't want to mix with others.''

This Publishing continues into the future. The World Students Society thanks author Choe Sang-Hun.


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