Face Korea’s racial divisionsThe number of expatriates living in our country has exceeded 1.1 million, according to the Ministry of Public Administration and Security’s survey of non-Koreans of foreign nationality who have lived in Korea longer than 90 consecutive days or have acquired Korean nationality. The statistics show that our country has become a multicultural society.
Despite this trend, our society does not yet embrace or understand other cultures. Half the foreigners in Korea are laborers, and they often suffer delayed payment of wages, violence and verbal abuse from their Korean employers or co-workers. Last year, one out of nine couples that married were international. But even though the number of foreign spouses has increased, bullying and violence against children from these families persists.
These problems come from a deep-rooted obsession with bloodlines and feelings of superiority to people from the third world. Two years ago, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed concern that Koreans’ emphasis on and pride in national homogeneity could hinder understanding and tolerance for different ethnic groups living in Korea, and the committee’s concerns turned out to be true.
If this discriminatory attitude toward foreigners based on skin color and language continues, we will never get rid of the shameful title “the country that discriminates against other races.” In our society, there are already signs of conflict and division, and they will worsen if we do not change.
At least the national local governments recently seem to realize the seriousness of the problem and have presented support measures and institutions for foreigners living in Korea. The city of Seoul, where a quarter of multicultural families live, plans to open in October a school for Korean and non-Korean children of international couples, and offer special classes for Korean men who plan to marry non-Koreans.
A program to teach the Korean language and culture to children from multicultural families has been prepared, as these children have difficulty adapting to school life because their parents’ Korean may not be good enough. Standards for international matchmaking businesses will be set up to protect people from bad conditions at some such companies that have ill intentions.
What’s most important is to have open hearts and a warm attitude to accept foreign residents as our neighbors. Employing a foreigner as the head of a public corporation does not suddenly make our society international and advanced. When all foreign workers and spouses in Korea feel they are welcome here, only then will our country become global in the truest sense.