Excuse me, Mr. President (국문)

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Excuse me, Mr. President (국문)

July 24 marked 200 days before the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Olympic Games. As an honorary ambassador for Gangwon Province, I was invited to take part in an event celebrating the day. No regular event, President Moon Jae-in would be there and I was to have a chance to meet him. You don’t meet the president of a country every day, especially the country I’ve been calling home for 9 years: Korea. While I was excited and honored, I was also terrified. What would I say to him, as a foreigner who loves life in Korea?

When I pondered what I would like to talk about, “communication” first came to mind. There are very few communication channels to express our voices, as residents here. More and more foreigners are working in Korea and calling it their home. And as citizens who care about their communities, it seems appropriate to have support to organize ourselves. While there are some initiatives in local governments, some issues are only dealt with by the central government, so we need to communicate with members of both.

The second was improving financial services for foreigners. This may be one of the most uncomfortable things for foreigners in Korea. While basic services are fine, foreign residents are often treated as “people who always leave.” “We don’t know if you’ll leave Korea all of a sudden, so how can we trust you?” is the refrain. Also, it is far more complicated for foreign residents to make payments by mobile phone than it is for Koreans. And while the number of foreigners interested in doing business and creating jobs in Korea is increasing, having little access to the financial system prevents so many from such success.

Finally, there is the name problem. Korean names are usually three Korean characters. Foreign names are typically much longer than this. “Carlos Augusto Cardoso Gorito” has 26 letters. I still remember the first thing I heard when I saw a long placard with my full name at Incheon Airport: “Why is it so long?” That was just the beginning.

Every time I needed some sort of ID, there was trouble. The name is always truncated when you make a card or register your phone. The length may be random: Sometimes you can write up to 15 or 20 characters, including spaces. Sometimes not. I was unable to sign up for Cyworld — and was left out of the Korean social media world for years.

So I came up with an idea. What if every long-term foreign resident was able to register an official hangul name? It could even be shown on our ARC. In my case, my original full name, with 26 characters, would be reduced to just 7 characters in its Korean version.

The day came, the event went well and I got the job done. After the main event, I shared the table with the president while tasting delicacies from Gangwon Province. The president was standing just in front, with figure skater Kim Yuna between us. Suddenly, the president handed me chopsticks and I barely managed to say, “Thank you.” I was nervous, and sadly, I forgot everything I had prepared.
So now I wait for the next opportunity.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 3, Page 28

*The author has performed on JTBC’s “Non-Summit” and KBS’ “Live Info Show.”


강원도 홍보대사 자격으로 7월 24일 평창 올림픽 D-200(개막 200일 전) 행사에 초청됐다. 올림픽 홍보대사를 자임한 문재인 대통령을 만날 생각에 떨리면서도 내심 기대가 부풀어 올랐다.
한국을 정말 사랑하는 외국인을 대표해 할 말이 무엇일까 곰곰이 생각해 보니 ‘소통’이 가장 먼저 떠올랐다. 외국인 목소리를 전달할 소통 창구가 극히 적다. 한국에서 일하고 가정을 꾸리는 외국인이 점점 늘어나고 있다. 국가별 공동체나 협회를 조직하는 데 도움을 주거나 모임의 장들을 초청해 간담회를 여는 등의 지원이 있으면 좋겠다.
둘째는 외국인 대상 금융 서비스 개선이다. 주한 외국인들이 가장 불편해하는 게 이것이다. 은행은 우리를 늘 ‘떠날 사람’ 취급한다. ‘언제 떠날지 모르는데 뭘 믿고 제대로 된 서비스를 제공하느냐’는 자세다. 또 외국인이 휴대전화로 대금 결제를 하는 것도 한국 사람에 비해 굉장히 복잡하다. 한국에서 사업을 하고 싶어하는 외국인이 늘고 있지만 배타적인 금융체제는 이러한 분위기에 찬물을 끼얹는다.
마지막으로 이름 문제가 있다. 한국인 이름은 한글 세 글자가 보통이다. 외국인 이름은 이보다 긴 게 대부분이다. 나만 하더라도 ‘Carlos Augusto Cardoso Gorito’로 알파벳으로 무려 26글자다. 실명 인증이 필요할 때마다 애를 먹는다. 카드를 만들거나 휴대전화 등록을 할 때 이름이 잘린다. 어디는 15자까지 어디는 20자까지 쓸 수 있고, 어디는 띄어쓰기 포함이고 어디는 포함 안 되고···.
실명인증이 필요한 서비스는 지레 겁먹고 포기하기 일쑤다. 그래서 외국인 등록증에 한글 이름을 병기하면 좋겠다. 여권에 적힌 본명과 간단한 한글 이름을 함께 등록하는 것이다. 내 경우 ‘카를로스 고리토’라는 한글 이름을 쓸 수 있다면 26자에서 7자로 확 줄일 수 있다.
드디어 행사일을 맞았다. 주요 일정을 마치고 강원도 전통음식을 시식하는 차례가 돼 대통령 가까이에 섰다. 앞에는 대통령, 옆에는 김연아 선수가 서 있었다. 심장이 쿵쿵 뛰었다. 대통령이 젓가락을 나에게 건낼 때 간신히 꺼낸 말은 ‘감사합니다’ 뿐이었다. 안타깝게도 너무 떨려서 준비한 말을 다 까먹었다. 이런 기회가 또 있다면 그때는 침착하게 건의하리라.

*브라질인·JTBC ‘비정상회담’ 전 출연자
카를로스 고리토
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