In Garibong-dong, one of Seoul's de-facto Chinatowns, bilingual signs in Korean and Chinese line the streets, eateries serve Northern Chinese cuisine, radios play old Chinese songs and many passersby speak Putonghua. By all appearances Garibong-dong would seem a multiculturalism success story. But the neighbourhood is mostly avoided by South Koreans, due to its perceived ghettoisation and high crime rate. "South Koreans have prejudice against us because Korean-Chinese people have caused some serious trouble in the past," said Kim Sook-ja, who moved to Korea from Yanbian prefecture in 2003 to join her mother-in-law. She recalled gruesome murders committed by Chinese nationals in other parts of South Korea including Oh Won-Chun, who killed and dismembered a woman in 2012, and Park Chun-bong, who committed a similar crime last year. "[As a result,] South Koreans and the Korean-Chinese tend to avoid each other," she added. Garibong-dong lies on the west side of the city, just south of the Han River in an area called Guro district. Since the 1990s, due to improved Korean relations with China, Garibong-dong experienced a large influx of Chinese migrants. Among the 19,500 people living in the area are also 6,700 ethnic Koreans from China. Some South Korean conservatives have called for a reduction in the number of immigrants and foreigners because of a perceived greater risk of crime, a belief that is not backed up by statistics. "Immigrants in Korea, including the Korean-Chinese, are criticised but foreigner crime rates are only half that of the national average," said Dr Park Kyung-tae, of Sungkonghoe University's department of sociology. "Koreans are more frightening when you look at statistics," he says. In 2014, the crime rate per population was 3.75 per cent for Korean nationals, and 1.71 per cent for foreigners. Park added: "Regions [such as Garibong-dong] should not be deemed dangerous because of racial or ethnic issues, but because of the economic inequality that exists." Any crime that does take place there is often linked to alcohol. "When I first moved here [from Jilin] six years ago, there were many Korean-Chinese who drank too much and caused public disorder," said Kim Yong-un, head of the volunteer neighbourhood safety patrol. "Now we work with over 60 volunteers. We can't dispense actual justice, but we notify the police and explain local policies and laws." Jin Bong-beom, chief inspector of the Garibong-dong Police branch, said over the four years he has watched over the area, crimes committed by foreign nationals have decreased by 33 per cent since 2012, from 156 crimes to 51 last year. However, both Kim and Jin acknowledge that drunken violence is still a common occurrence. Jin says he deals with two to three cases each week. "They usually happen on weekends," he said. "No violence ever takes place without alcohol involved." Beyond Garibong-dong, there are other up-and-coming Chinatowns in Seoul that are viewed in a more positive light due to the economic boost they receive from Chinese residents. Konkuk University is one such area where the influx of Chinese university students have helped boost local business. Korean-Chinese shop owner Lee Gun-cheol says the area has become very popular for its Northern Chinese cuisine. "Over the past four years, I've seen the number of Chinese and Korean visitors rise...This is the only official street in Korea recognised for its lamb skewers," he says of the well-liked Chinese-style kebabs. However, he also notes that Korean residents are becoming fewer. "The number of Koreans living here is decreasing. People living here say that it's become too noisy and crowded due to all the recent attention." Despite growing diversity, South Korea has no laws against discrimination In 2009, Bonojit Hussain, an Indian national working as a research professor, was harassed by a stranger while riding a bus with a Korean female friend. When Hussain attempted to report a hate crime to police, he was stunned by what he uncovered: foreign affairs documents using terms such as 'impurity of blood'. "It's not just discrimination within society," he says. "There's a conscious top-down policy at the level of the government." The number of foreign nationals living in South Korea has risen greatly since the country's democratisation in the late 1980s. Last year, a record number of them - 1.57 million - made up about 3 per cent of the country's population. However, in spite of these numbers, South Korea has yet to fully embrace a policy of multiculturalism and still has no laws against discrimination, be it racism, sexism or other types of bigotry. "Even in my case, it turned out I was the first," Hussain said. "The system is so inaccessible to foreigners, nobody has gone to it." In late 2014, a bar in Itaewon district put up a sign saying it would not serve Africans due to the Ebola virus. This has since been taken down due to outrage from foreign and Korean residents alike. In spite of receiving pressure from Rutuma Ruteere, UN specialist rapporteur on racism, to create an anti-racism act, during his recent visit to the nation, South Korea may have other concerns to address before this issue can be resolved. "In 2007, 2010 and 2013, we tried three times to pass such a bill," said Dr Park Kyung-tae , a professor of sociology from Sungkonghoe University. Each attempt failed, he said, not because of racial or migrant issues but because of what enacting such legislation would also mean for crimes against homosexuality and other related issues. Conservative religious groups would not allow it, he says. "It's a matter of politics, and congressmen don't want to become targets for these groups."