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[Editorial] Embrace Multiculturalism

Posted April. 04, 2006 02:59,   


Korea is no longer a homogeneous society. Among the 8,027 rural men who got married last year, 36 percent married people from overseas. International marriage only accounted for one to three percent of the total marriages in Korea before 1998, but it is on a steep rise, surpassing 10 percent in 2004.

The number of mixed-race students in rural elementary schools has increased as well. In some regions, they account for almost half of all first graders.

The lack of workers in some sectors, caused by the low fertility rate and workers’ shunning dirty, dangerous and difficult jobs, will likely accelerate the influx of overseas immigrants into the country. At the end of last year, there were more than 500,000 registered aliens in Korea. If we add illegal aliens and their children, that number rises to about 700,000. With the population of foreigners increasing at an annual rate of 18 percent, it will not be long before we have one million overseas residents living in Korea.

Despite this, prejudice and bigotry against foreigners and people of mixed descent still exist in Korea. Although Koreans applaud and welcome the success story of half-Korean Super Bowl star Hines Ward, who came to Korea yesterday, we remain closed about the race issue as a country. While we praise successful half-Koreans living overseas, we look down on non-Koreans with Korean husbands and discriminate against their children.

Strictly speaking, Korea is a country of mixed blood coming from India, Arab, China, and Japan. The myth of Korea being a homogeneous nation should be rejected. Only when we make our children realize the fact that races and cultures are bound to mix and the more diverse they become, the stronger they get, can we make our country stop pointlessly pursuing pure bloodedness and be more embracing and open like other multi-cultural countries like the U.S. That is what will be beneficial both for the development of the country and humanity as a whole.

The government, local governments, and civic groups must protect foreign residents in Korea who are vulnerable to poverty and diseases and support mixed-race children so that they can receive fair treatment and education. They must also come up with policies to prevent racial discrimination. Without achieving “globalization within,” Korea cannot succeed in this globalization era.