Goodbye to xenophobia

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Goodbye to xenophobia

Some far-right, xenophobic groups have caused embarrassing scenes during a legislative-sponsored seminar on legal steps to protect and enhance the rights of immigrants and multiethnic families. They crashed the seminar, hosted by the ruling Saenuri Party’s Jasmine Lee, a Filipina who became the first naturalized Korean to secure a seat in the legislative, decrying the multiethnic policies as measures to wipe out the homogenous identity of the Korean people. They called the party organizers who escorted them out of the venue “traitors.”

We must not tolerate xenophobic nationalism and anti-immigrant sentiment, which can undermine the harmony of Korea as well as its global reputation. It goes against our heritage of tolerance and harmony.

Most foreigners have come to this country because they were in demand by our society. Young women wed Korean farmers who could not find wives because contemporary Korean women dislike the farming life. Migrant workers were invited to make up labor shortages in workplaces of small and mid-sized manufacturers. Most are living happily alongside Koreans and a host have become naturalized citizens who are now responsible for shaping the future of this nation. They are not uninvited guests but legitimate members of the community who deserve equal treatment and the same opportunities as those born in this country.

To help immigrants put down roots in their communities is neither preferential treatment nor a denial of the rights of Korean nationals. It is necessary for the common goals and interests of our community. Immigrants need education and moral and financial support so that they can overcome religious, cultural and language barriers.

Korean society can no longer insist on homogeneity. We have become used to living with foreign faces. Multiethnicism will likely accelerate as frontiers and borders quickly come down. Moreover, with one of the lowest birth rates in the world, this country has a serious shortage of human resources. We must take action against racist and xenophobic accusations and actions. We need specific laws to define a pro-immigrant ideology and rein in knee-jerk prejudices and phobic sentiment against people who differ in appearance, culture, religion and language. We must all be aware that multiethnicism and diversity are no longer a choice, but a necessity for the future of our society.
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