Stepping toward multiculturalism

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2013-04-11 20:26Z by Steven

Stepping toward multiculturalism

The Korea Herald

Cho Chung-un

Experts call for a long-term vision of Korea as a multiethnic society, social agreement on overall immigration policy

Globalization, demographic change and economic growth have led Korea to embrace cultural diversity and tolerance toward others. But biases and discrimination against foreigners remain and Koreans’ pride for ethnic purity is deeply entrenched. This 10-part series will offer a glimpse into the nation’s efforts to promote multiculturalism and challenges in immigration law, education, welfare, public perception, mass culture and more. ― Ed.

Korea is one of a few countries that have long remained racially homogenous. But a growing number of immigrants since the late 1990s have prompted the nation to embrace multiculturalism as a key national policy and cultural movement.

It is no longer rare to see mixed-raced children mingling with Korean peers at schools and streets. More Koreans marry foreigners and immigrants are playing an increasingly big role in society. The nation now has its first foreign-born lawmaker representing ethnic minorities.

Despite diminishing prejudices and discrimination against the newcomers, Korea still has a long way to go with its immigration laws, education and welfare policies and people’s tolerance toward different cultures, experts say…

…It is somewhat surprising that the Korean government started to take the immigration issue seriously only in 2006. At that time, then-President Roh Moo-hyun was under pressure from the international community to address concerns about Korea neglecting human rights issues involving immigrants and foreign workers and brides. The fear of losing the productive population in the future due to a record-low birthrate was another reason. But it was the visit by American football star Hines Ward that dramatically turned Koreans toward a multicultural society.

Ward, born to a Korean mother, became a proud son of Korea and inspired many that people from a multicultural background could also become an important asset to the country.

But it took four years for the government to launch the first phase of the comprehensive multicultural project. The 2010 plan focused on supporting them financially and institutionally. Critics said that the initial plans led many Koreans to build a new type of prejudice against multicultural families…

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