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Immigrant Life in Korea

By Jun Ji-min
Cub Reporter
onlyonejm@dongguk.edu


   
 
America is one of the most multi-ethnic and multi-cultural nations. But still, racial and class discrimination has caused frustration and anger from immigrants. Cho Seung-hui, the Virginia Tech killer, also experienced segregation growing up in Virginia, a state notorious for racial discrimination. After his family immigrated into America, he was left alone by his parents who were too busy doing laundry work to support Seung-hui and his sister. As he grew older, he was disconnected with everyone because of socio-cultural difference. These circumstances caused the Korean-American to take revenge against society. A case like this is not limited to America. A similar situation can happen to many migrant workers and their children in Korea.

After the Virginia Tech massacre, many people are focusing on Mr. Cho's upbringing and analyzing the social indifference of American society towards its immigrant. Koreans like to criticize racial discrimination in America but do not reflect on Closed nationalism?in Korean society. Although a large number of migrant workers and their families are in Korea, our society does not care about their rights nor about the possibility of a similar shooting spree.

We can see this possibility in the latest case of French riots in 2005. After World War II, France government suffered from a growing labor shortage. The government's solution to the problem was to let Arab immigrants move to France to work. Subsequently, their children were born in France, and they were discriminated against by French society. Finally, riots broke out. The riots were triggered by the death of two muslim teenagers. In fact, Lutte Contre Exclusion, a law for immigrant rights, was enacted in 1998, but it was ineffectual.

The Realities of Immigrants?Children in Korea

The Dongguk Post interviewed Lee Gang-ae, vice principal of International Mongolia School. We have changed people's names to protect their privacy.

1) Haliona, a Mogolian-Korean, didn't get along with her Korean friends and she became an outcaste because of cultural differences. Moreover, because her mother was always working hard and didn't speak Korean, she didn't know of Haliona's grievous situation. When Haliona disagreed with the school's hair policy, some teachers said, You should obey. We accepted you into this school even though you are Mogolian-Korean. So, you should follow the school rule.? She wanted to express her anger, but she could not because she was just a stranger in Korean society.

2) When Jargalan, a 15-year-old International Mongolia School student, went to a Korean elementary school for two years, her schoolmates always laughed at her. 밫hen bullies said, you are a poor Mongolia. Go back to your country, " said Lee Gang-ae. Then one day, some Korean children knocked Jargalan down the stairs and she lost two front teeth. This incident left her with psychological trauma. Fortunately, while attending the International Mongolia School, she recovered from her horrible experience. She said that Korean school life was like an endless nightmare. Soon after starting to go to the International Mongolia School, Jargalan gained self-esteem.

Concern About a Second Cho
With globalization, low-paid laborers have been coming to Korea and international marriages are increasing.

Present Situation
The number of migrant workers are expected to exceed more than one million in 2010. Moreover, different races will comprise 9% of Korean population in 2050. An immigrant society is with an immigrant population that exceed 10%.

Compared with the past, human rights and labor laws for migrant workers have improved. Nevertheless, the government prohibits The Family Invitation Immigrant Law. It means that even if immigrant families come to Korea, restrictions will remain. Many children of immigrants in Korean society are uneducated and are not to get the permanent residency.

Cho Won-ki, the general director of Migrant Workers Welfare Society in Korea, is concerned about a negative result of inter-racial marriage. A number of old bachelors in rural area are married to Asian women, especially Vietnamese. On average, men are about 20 years older than women. There is a good chance that the husband will die much earlier than the wife and fatherless families will increase. More inter-racial families will become alienated from Korean society.

If Korean society keeps its closed nationalism and neglects to improve the immigrant settlement system, a Second Cho could strike Korea.

Ways to Overcome Problems
We can find a way to solve immigrant problems through learning from the above cases.
First, the government should take substantial measures to protect the human and educational rights of children of immigrants. Second, our society must end closed nationalism and replace it with a more inclusive ethos for the entire community. According to Lee Gang-ae, Primary and Middle Education Laws had been improved by Korean government. Hence, a number of immigrant children have been admitted to Korean schools. But many of them have dropped out of Korean schools because they experienced racial discrimination. The laws can be reformed. But the most important thing is to change our negative view on immigrants. There are already many inter-racial marriages and mixed-blooded Children. We have to regard them as part of Korean society and open our minds to them,?she added.

Jun Ji-min  onlyonejm@dongguk.edu

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