Mixed marriagesLast year, four out of 10 marriages involving single men living in the countryside were to foreign women. Nationwide, one out of eight marriages was an “international” union.
This is a sure sign that Korea is no longer a country with a single ethnicity; we are well on the way to being both multi-ethnic and multi-cultural. These changes are taking place at a rapid pace.
In 1990, international marriages accounted for just 1.2 percent of weddings. Now, 15 years later, the figure has jumped more than 10 times to 13.6 percent. This is a warning that we can no longer delay preparing for the reality of a pluralistic society.
People who have left their homelands to marry Koreans face many hardships here. They face a language barrier, cultural differences and issues related to education and discrimination. Children from interracial marriages are often labeled as “mixed” and are bullied in school.
According to a recent survey of immigrants conducted by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, 30 percent of respondents said they have experienced discrimination while living in Korea.
If Koreans continue to treat immigrants and their children badly or discriminate against them, conflicts in society will worsen, rifts will open between different groups, unemployment and crime will surge and insecurity will increase.
This can be avoided if we prepare detailed, organized and long-term measures to help immigrants married to Koreans settle down and have a good life here.
According to a survey, less than 20 percent of immigrants who have married Koreans have taken courses on Korean language and culture. Both national and local governments should do more to provide classes and services for these people.
The government should also encourage Koreans who marry foreigners to learn the basics of the languages and cultures of their spouses’ homeland.
The government must also make a special effort to educate the children of interracial marriages and prepare them for life as productive citizens of Korea.
All Koreans must realize how precious it is to live in the midst of cultural diversity. We should break our obsession with bloodlines, which makes our society closed and exclusive.
If we do these things, we can all become happier, because in the future it will be impossible to live only with “pure” Koreans.