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[Opinion] 720,000 Foreign Residents Live in Korea

Posted August. 03, 2007 06:20,   


One of Korea’s representative academic groups, the ‘Korean Industrial Society,” recently changed its name to the ‘Society of Social Criticism.’ The society, founded in 1984, changed its name to represent the diversity of Korea.

Today’s society is totally different from that of 1984 in social diversity, requiring a new paradigm to reflect today’s different world. It is true that we are living in a transition period.

A scholar described Korean society as ‘a contradictory civic society.’ A symbolic example is that members of civic groups, who are liberal and realistic in their official capacity, put top priority on their families, friends, and alumni in their personal life.

Since democratization in Korea, many conflicting values mingle and coexist: liberals and conservatives, traditions and contemporaries, and groups and individuals.

The same holds true for the young generation. In some quarters of colleges, anti-American sentiment is prevailing. But students are immersed in American dramas and drinking Coke at home. That confuses the public as well as social scholars.

There is another change challenging ideology, which has been taken for granted so far: the increasing number of foreigners in our neighborhoods.

As of May 2007, the number of foreigners who lived in Korea for more than 90 days is 720,000, up a whopping 35 percent just within a year. The number of local communities with more than 10,000 foreigners has risen from eight last year to 16 this year. The share of foreigners in the Korean population is 1.5 percent, the same as that of Japan, which is far more open to overseas culture.

Korea has a strong sense of nationalism, which largely contributed the nation to lifting out of colonial rule and making economic progress.

But sentiment against foreigners is negative effect of nationalism. Now is time to revise our nationalism. With the world getting smaller and integrated, narrow-minded sentiments must change. A better place to live for foreigners is also better for the public.

Hong Chan-sik, Editorial Writer, chansik@donga.com