Gov’t plans family center reforms

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Gov’t plans family center reforms

The government announced yesterday new measures to overhaul existing support programs for growing numbers of multicultural families in the country to improve their efficiency and provide a wider support network.

Under these reforms, the government will combine multicultural family support centers with support centers for Korean families, a move that reflects the rise in the number of multicultural families and a shift in the perception that such families should be regarded as strictly Korean.

Previously, the two family centers were separate entities and provided different programs. Officials noticed that multicultural family centers were largely shunned by foreigners that had some Korean heritage - Korean-Chinese heritage, for example - because those venues mostly just provided beginner Korean-language classes.

The integrated family centers will provide tailored support programs based on the needs of its families, which potentially include North Korean defectors, foreigners or naturalized citizens.

The government’s decision to combine the family centers followed complaints that there were too many support programs provided by government offices that overlapped with one another, raising demands by experts that a range of policies be streamlined under common supervision.

Last year, 12 government offices, including the Justice, Gender Equality and Education ministries, carried out a total of 93 projects to assist multicultural families, spending 123.2 billion won ($115 million).

Foreign immigrants will also be able to take a Korean-language course at any public center certified by the local government to receive incentives when applying for naturalization.

Previously, those seeking incentives had to take a Korean-language class offered through the Justice Ministry’s social integration course, available in major cities. That left many expatriates in distant rural areas at a disadvantage. With the new incentives, the Korean-language efficiency test can be waived for those working toward becoming Korean citizens.

“With the implementation of the overhaul, we will take one more step toward the integration of society,” Gender Equality and Family Minister Cho Yoon-sun said yesterday.

By 2017, the government plans to have integrated family support centers in every district of all cities nationwide, he added.

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