For multiethnic families, divorce rates see decrease

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For multiethnic families, divorce rates see decrease

Divorce rates are down for multiethnic families, but migrants also feel more discrimination compared to three years ago, said the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family on Tuesday.

One 42-year-old woman from the Philippines came to Korea in 2000 and through a church organization married a Korean man. They set up their honeymoon home in Gunsan, North Jeolla, but moved to Incheon a year later because there were more job opportunities in the city.

Her husband now works at a saw mill, and she works at a Korean-style fast-food restaurant. Together, the two earn around 3 million won ($2,766) in salary per month. They have two children, ages 6 and 7, and while finances are tight, they get by.

“I was scared of Korea in the beginning. Now it has become my second home,” she said. “But people do talk behind my back, though it is less than compared to before. I wish they do not do that to my children.”

The ministry revealed in its 2012 survey of multiethnic families nationwide that four in 10, or 41.3 percent of respondents, stated that they have felt discriminated against because they were foreigners.

The survey was conducted in July last year of 15,341 multiethnic households. Of these households, 15,001 were comprised of married immigrants. Only 16 percent of these were men, however, compared to 12,531 married female immigrants.

In the first nationwide survey of multiethnic households conducted four years ago, 36.4 percent of respondents stated that they felt discriminated against because of their ethnicity.

The highest number of respondents said that they were discriminated at work, followed by restaurants and stores. Others felt discriminated against in their neighborhoods, at public facilities and school.

Divorce and separations rate for multiethnic newlyweds are drastically down, however, from 53.1 percent in 2009 to 37.8 percent in 2012.

There are some 266,547 multiethnic households in Korea, and a total of 283,224 married immigrants, including naturalized citizens. Of these married immigrants, 226,084 are female.

Chinese, including those ethnically Korean, comprise 53.3 percent of the foreign married immigrants, followed by Vietnamese at 18.3 percent, Japanese at 5.8 percent and Filipino at 5.3 percent.

Employment rate is up for married multiethnic men and women compared to four years ago. Men went up from 74.3 percent in 2009 to 80.3 percent last year. The employment rate for women went up 16 percentage points from 36.9 percent to 53 percent.

Likewise, compared to 2009, the percentage of low-income households, or those that earn less than an average of 2 million won monthly, decreased from 59.7 percent to 41.9 percent last year.

“Support in the early stages of the settlement of immigrants has raised the employment rate, stability of the family and income level, but ironically the risk of being exposed to discrimination has also increased,” said Jang Gi-taek, a researcher with the Korean Women’s Development Institute.

“Policy on multiethnic immigrants now has to move one step further from helping their adjustment in the early stages and target their natural assimilation into the local community.”


By Sarah Kim, Jang Joo-young [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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