Will Korea Welcome More Migrants Than Japan?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 3/04/2016 11:41:00 AM
Maybe "Korean multiculturalism" won't be an oxymoron in the near future.
When it comes to the least fertile countries in the world, East Asian ones are pretty much at the bottom of global league tables. Since the demographic consequences of this phenomenon are dire--ever-fewer workers supporting a larger number of economically inactive--these countries have naturally been investigating solutions ranging from increasing benefits for new parents to improving the image of parenthood. To date, none have really worked in East Asia.

Enter migration: if people will not have children of their own who will eventually enter the workforce, why not bring in persons of working age from abroad? Better than wait for children to grow, they can work now. As relatively homogeneous societies, however, the fear remains that of cultural dilution. That said, there may be differences even among East Asian countries.

Consider South Korea. Make no mistake: On the balance, the general public holds negative views of migrant workers:
More than half of Koreans have a negative attitude towards foreign workers residing here, a recent survey showed. In a survey by local pollster Gallup Korea, 54 per cent of respondents said that the migration of foreign workers to Korea is "not a good thing." The study was conducted on 1,500 Koreans aged 19 and above.

Thirty-nine per cent said that it is a "good thing," which is significantly lower than the 57 per cent average across the 69 countries that participated in this global survey.
That said, multi-ethnic marriages and families are becoming more of a staple in South Korea. Call it another globalization phenomenon:
Interracial marriages [...] have grown since the 1990s in largely homogenous South Korea as the country started opening up following the end of military rule in 1993, and its people engaged in trade and tourism exchanges with nationals of neighbouring countries, including China, Vietnam and the Philippines.

As of 2014, there were 795,000 multicultural family members, comprising South Koreans, their foreign spouses and their biracial children, living in the nation of 50 million people, according to the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. The country is also home to about 1.7 million foreigners.

Over 63 per cent of interracial marriages are between South Korean men and foreign-born women, the majority of whom hail from China, Japan and South-east Asian countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines. South Korean women marrying foreign men make up 24 per cent, and the rest are marriages that include one or two naturalised foreigners.
Unlike Japan, South Korea's government has been more active in changing public attitudes towards these multi-ethnic families:
Last November [2015], a revision to the Multicultural Families Act was made to put greater emphasis on changing biased views of these families, preventing discrimination of biracial children and encouraging more openness among Koreans towards these families.
This marks a shift in the government's policy, from merely integrating migrant spouses into the Korean society to more active efforts at promoting multiracial harmony. Details are being worked out and will be announced later.
While it's true that Korea's government is dragging its foot somewhat on the subject matter, there is a clear difference with Japan which has not really tackled the issue of acceptance in a significant way. In this respect, Korea is ahead--if only slight so, it's still a meaningful public policy difference.