A multicultural future?Mixed-culture families have played a significant role in overcoming the problem of a low fertility rate in some areas.
Korea’s total fertility rate is 1.26 on average, one of the lowest in the world. However, Boseong County, South Jeolla, has a total fertility rate of 2.33 and Hwacheon County, Gangwon, has a rate of 2.0, relatively higher than the average rate. This is because of women from overseas have married Korean men and settled here.
However, children from mixed-culture families are not always welcome in Korean society when they grow up. They are often made fun of because of their skin color and language. Naturally, their parents find this situation heartbreaking.
During a National Assembly inspection of the government recently, it was found that many children from such families are often isolated in schools. Some 15.4 percent of children from international families leave elementary school. Even more drop out as they grow older. Some 39.7 percent do not attend middle school and 69.6 percent do not attend high school. Even those who stay in school are left behind because they can’t speak Korean fluently and suffer from an identity crisis.
The number of children from international families has gradually increased, now at 58,000. If they grow up without proper education, they could be disadvantaged in the workplace and in marriage.
In 2005, adolescents from immigrant families rioted in Paris, and the same year, immigrant families got involved in terrorist bombings in London. These young adults were French or British citizens but they were discriminated against and expressed their frustration through violence.
If children from mixed-culture families continue to be regarded as second-class citizens, the future of our society might be gloomy.
The government recently announced plans to provide education programs for babies and elementary school students from such families. Their parents will also be given Korean language classes in hopes that their children learn their mother tongue.
What is important is to carry out the plan as it was originally intended. We have to be open toward mixed-culture families as Korea becomes a multicultural society.
Observers say school textbooks that stress a single ethnic group should embrace a more diverse culture instead. Whether they will make contributions to society or harbor discontent depends largely on what we do.