On Friday, March 12th, with the lingering cold of spring still hanging in the air, The UOS TIMES visited the ‘Center for Multi-cultural Korea’ on Sinmun Street, Jong-no gu. It was small and had impressive red walls, and was located near embassy of Czech. The Secretary General Kim Sung-hoe, welcomed us warmly.
First and foremost, he said that the ratio of multi-cultural families is very high and increasing annually. “The recent problem is children who moved into Korea because of their parents’ marriage. They tend to have difficulties adapting to a new culture and language. Though there are approximately 10,000 of these children, 53 percent are dropping out of school. In other words, about 5,300 teenagers are leaving school because of difficulties in language and cultural differences; meanwhile only 2 percent of the Korean teenagers are quitting school.”
He continued by saying, “They are quitting school mostly because they are excluded or making low progress in studying. They often get picked on due to their different appearance. For example, one student who had Japanese mom sometimes had to hear things like, “go back to Japan, you Jap!” Also, those children who are have darker skin become the laughing stock as their classmates are making fun of their skin color.”
“It is serious problem that Korean society recognizes the multicultural family as an inferior social class.” He severely criticized the tendency of Koreans that continue to separate the differences. “Media and government are infusing the idea that multicultural family is usually poor and troublesome. How was it before we had the word ‘multicultural family’? We would rudely call them, ‘Tuigi’, ‘Kosian’ or ‘Komerican.’ Moreover, when we saw the North Korean defectors, we kept separating them from us! We need to change our way of thinking to be a real global Korea!”
The Center for Multi-cultural Korea is focusing on the education of children from multicultural families to help lead Korea in a new direction. He stated that, “Multicultural children have amazing potential, but we merely recognize it because there are only a few of them. However, they understand more countries and languages than we do. These kids could be another Obama! Who knows?”
He then gave a sigh and said, “But as long as we separate them from us, who can be sure that there, will be no chance of incidents like Virginia Tech University or the Rodney King case? Our center made a multi-cultural choir because we feel that singing would be a great way to introduce the multi-cultural family. Kids were so down and weren’t happy at first, but later then they remember how to laugh. We were so grateful to see their attitude changed in just 6 months.”
He said the center was recruiting a second choir with a plan to hold a singing contest on May 31st. Also, the center has made a great effort to pass a bill of the “Law of Settlement for Multi-culture.” About 30 congressmen from the ruling and opposition parties formed a Multi- cultural forum in the National Assembly. Perhaps a more effective support would be possible by combining 7~8 different policies into a good one when this bill gets passed.”
He went on to say that, “Korea should prepare and think globally. During the 20th century, Korea promoted ‘Nationalism,’ became independence from Japan, and survived ‘The Korean War.’ During the economic development period in the 1960s and 1970s, there were many banners promoting the idea of ‘Nationalism.’ However the 21st century should be different. Already low fertility and the aging of the population are becoming important issues in Korea.”
In addition, multicultural families are increasing every year. In other words, the new paradigm shift known as ‘Multiculturalism’ is intensifying. If perceptions about multicultural families do not change, there is a potential outburst of huge social problems, such as racial conflict. Still, elementary school, middle school, and high school textbooks are always teaching the idea that, ‘Korea is a nation with a continuous history of five thousand years’ and it has dominated the ideology of ‘ethnic group = nation.’ In the future, Korea needs to get out of exclusive and one sided view of blood. Moreover, Korea has to recognize the diversity of individuals, so they acknowledge a ‘Larger Korea.’ The paradigm of multiculturalism will be the biggest impetus to develop Korea.
We believe that many different cultures and ethnicities can live in harmony. After the interview, we imagined a new Korea in the 21st century. More importantly, we want all the citizens of Korea to accept the idea of being a multicultural society!