[Letters] Migrant, immigrant, emigrant

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[Letters] Migrant, immigrant, emigrant

I’d like to question why your paper has chosen to refer to non-Korean women who have married Korean men and settled down in this country as migrants in a Wednesday photo caption of “Together Day,” a YWCA event, which showed several clearly Asian women and described these spouses as “woman migrants.”

As many readers might have observed, the term “migrant worker” has become widespread in the Korean media to refer to non-Western workers - typically from Southeast Asia and South Asia - who take factory jobs or other so-called 3-D [dirty, dangerous, demeaning] work in Korea, and usually, though not always, return to their homeland after a few years.

At the same time, people from Western countries who also sojourn in Korea for a limited time to work, to earn money, and also return home after a year or so, and hence are migrant workers in every sense of the word, are accorded the title of “English teachers” or “English professors,” but never “migrant worker.”

Why doesn’t the media lump all temporary workers from foreign lands here under the term migrant workers? Am I missing something? It is my suspicion that some of this distinction is a result of bias, as historically, the term migrant worker has referred to low-paid, itinerant farm laborers who did the sweaty, backbreaking work of picking crops in the fields.

And now, it has come to refer to Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino, and other non-Korean (but almost always Asian) women.

Let’s not forget that “migrant” is often shorthand for migrant worker, which generally means “a person who moves from place to place to get work, especially a farm laborer who harvests crops seasonally.” Are these new permanent settlers to Korea’s shores migrants? With their intention to settle down here and learn the culture, they’re certainly not migrants!

Words carry a lot of underlying meaning and the popular media have a duty to use language responsibly. After all, readers can always decide to “emigrate” to some other source of information.

Joel Levin, Seoul

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