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New Paradigm, New Korea
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[0호] 승인 2010.04.06  
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Have you ever heard about any multicultural family living around you? The number of multicultural families is steadily increasing, and studies indicate that there are already 300,000 people in a multicultural marriage. Surprised? However, when you look in the Korean dictionary ‘multicultural family,’ you will be more surprised by the fact that there is still no definition for a ‘multicultural family’ listed in the dictionary! This is a evident example reflects Korean people’s general attitude toward multicultural families; ignorant and indifferent.

As stated above, the number of multicultural family is skyrocketing as it was estimated to be already over 1 million in 2009. According to the 2009 statistics from the Ministry of Justice, the numbers of naturalized foreigners is getting larger. It was 870,000 in 2008, 1,150,000 in 2009, and about 1,500,000 in 2010. Especially we have 290,000 multi-cultural families which have a Korean wife or husband and 167,000 women who have applied for and obtained Korean nationality. According to the Ministry of Justice, only 0.58% of them are family units but it is expected to be 1.51% by 2020 and 5.11% by 2050. In addition, the figure of foreigners who have been registered has grown from 600,000 to nearly 900,000 from 2006 to 2009. Experts claim that this number may be much higher since the figures above do not include illegal immigrants and foreign workers.

According to a data lawmaker Won Hee-mok in the Grand National Party, children from multicultural families tended to have lower percentage of attendance than like most of Korean students peers in school. The statistics indicate that multicultural children’s percentage for attendance is 84% in elementary school, 85% in middle school, and 71% in high school. However, the general numbers for Korean students indicate 97% in elementary school, 95% in middle school, and 89% in high school. Furthermore, the study shows that 24.5% of children between the ages of 6 and 18 from multicultural families were not getting a proper school education. The number of Korea multicultural families in Korea was 25,000 in 2006, 44,000 in 2007, 58,000 in 2008, and 103,000 in 2009, and it has been increasing annually.

However, 53% of multicultural families are living under the minimum cost of living. As a result of this, they cannot receive ‘private education’ or ‘specialty and aptitude education.’ Also, many multicultural students are excluded by their classmates because their skin color is different and their parents are foreigners. Koreans have a notion that they are a ‘pure-blood-ethnic group.’ Therefore, Korean people tend to be critical of multicultural families. Koreans usually separate them from ‘pure-blooded Koreans.’ Koreans usually discriminate against multicultural families by calling them half-breed, Kosian, or half-blood. But recently, Lee Charm, who is a naturalized person from Germany, got an appointment at the Korea Tourism Organization in 2009. Also, many multiracial singers have performed brilliantly, such as In Sooni and Yoon Soo-il. Subsequently, they have changed the overall concept of ‘Multiculturalism.’

Even now, many multicultural students feel discriminated against in Korean society. According to the ‘National Human Rights Commission of Korea,’ and the Gwang-ju YMCA, 28% of 203 multicultural children (85.7% of elementary school students) have had an experience of discrimination. Especially, 68% of them experienced discrimination from their classmates. However, only 4% of these children acquired help from their teachers and counselors. The statistics show that they didn’t receive adequate help.

Last January, the Seoul Metropolitan Government started the ‘Han Ultari Plan’ (One Fence Making Plan), which was made to lay the groundwork for the integration of a multicultural society. The Seoul Metropolitan Government said, “Seoul is the second largest city where the multicultural families are living, so Seoul should support foreigners as part of our community. In addition, Seoul will have a commitment to provide an ‘International Pre-marriage School’ and a ‘Job Support Program’ for women from multicultural families.

The government is making an effort to implement a policy to embrace multicultural families like Australia’s and New Zealand’s. Especially, Australia has claimed to support and stand for humanitarian principles and policy for over 30 years. In Australia, the native flag blows in the wind at the public office. In addition, they always play the second national anthem in their native language. Also, New Zealand always uses a second greeting in the Maori language which is New Zealand’s native tribe. Australia and New Zealand considers family violence as a really important issue. They think one factor effecting family violence may be caused from different languages and cultures. Therefore, they place considerable concerns on language education.

The Korean society needs to change to have the capacity for and the awareness of cultural pluralism, like Australia and New Zealand. Korea pushes the issue of ‘Globalization’, though they discriminate against multicultural families because they are not like most of Korean. Kim Sung Hoe, the Secretary General in the Center for Multicultural Korea said, “Multicultural families have high invisible potential to bring a new wave to the Korean society. 10 to 20 years from now the children who grow up in multicultural family could be potentially the second or the third president Obama! We expect Korea to become and change as a country which embraces many ethnic groups and realizes that it is a real multicultural Society!”

Bae Geun-hang Reporter / Oh Ji-hye Junior Reporter
nowhao90@uos.ac.kr / ssong2005@uos.ac.kr
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