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  Naming restrictions vex multicultural families

Naming restrictions vex multicultural families

July 09,2012
Jennifer Clister, 34, an American married to a Korean, named her son Kim Clister Seo-jun last year, giving him both her husband’s and her own surnames.

But the Korean government refused to allow Clister to register the name. She was told that a given name over five Hangul characters could not be officially accepted by the country.

As the number of multicultural families rises in Korea, laws restricting the use of longer given names are coming under increased scrutiny. A series of laws have placed limitations on acceptable names.

The Family Relationship Registration Act of 1991 passed by the National Assembly stipulates that the use of certain Chinese characters must be chosen from a list approved by the Supreme Court. The government also implemented the length limit on given names in 1993.

A 31-year-old man surnamed Kim who lives in Mapo District, central Seoul, said that he was forbidden to name his baby girl as his family wanted. The Chinese character chosen by the parents was not on the government’s list of Chinese characters “usable for a person’s name” established by the Supreme Court in 1991.

Kim’s family had to use another name for registration.

“The name meant a lot to us and I couldn’t understand why we had to change it because of legal regulations,” Kim said.

The Supreme Court stated that the legislation narrowing down the use of acceptable names was implemented for the sake of “social acceptance.”

“One’s name is the basis of his or her social life and thus requires a certain level of social acceptance,” the court said.

“So it is proper that the naming of a child should regard the child’s benefit and must be easily recognizable by others.”

The court and lawmakers also cited reasons related to the convenience of the government’s computerized registration system, according to a Supreme Court official.

However, parents like Kim, who want the freedom to name their children whatever they choose, view the law as an infringement on their rights.

Min Hyun-joo, a lawmaker of the ruling Saenuri Party, last week proposed a reform bill to eliminate the regulation of Chinese characters usable for a person’s name as stipulated in the Family Relationship Registration Act.

“The ‘usable’ characters on the list include characters inappropriate to be used in names like those meaning ‘death,’ ‘thief’ and ‘illness,’ so I don’t doubt the practicality of the list,” Min said.

“But the regulation on Chinese characters usable for a person’s name unnecessarily infringes on people’s rights and should be repealed.”

The Supreme Court has voiced its concern over the proposed reform bill.

“Using rare Chinese characters for children’s names may cause inconvenience in a child’s life,” a court official said.

It is currently possible to make an addition to the Chinese characters usable for a person’s name through civil appeal, the official added.

The number of Chinese characters on the list has been increased through a number of revisions. Some 5,700 are listed presently, augmented from 2,700 in 1991.

Limiting the number of characters (in Hangul, the number of letters for a word is the same as the number of syllables in the word) that can be registered for names is also under criticism.

Yun Jin-soo, professor of Seoul National University’s College of Law, said the current pressure to conform to traditional Korean names is not sustainable when looking at demographic trends on the peninsula.

“As multicultural families increase, insisting on the use of traditional Korean names will gradually become harder,” Yun said. “Deregulation of letter limits on names should be considered.”

By Lee Seung-ho [estyle@joongang.co.kr]
  City offers classes for foreign brides

City offers classes for foreign brides

July 03,2012
Married immigrant women take lessons to become certified nail artists at the Seoul Jungbu Women Development Center in Mapo District, western Seoul, on June 20. For many, becoming a manicurist would be their first step to having a steady job here. By Park Sang-moon

My Tien Tran, a 24-year-old woman from Vietnam, moved to Seoul three years ago after marrying a Korean man.

She is one of the 20 students enrolled in the manicure and eyelash extensions certification class at the Seoul Jungbu Women Development Center in Mapo District, western Seoul, one of the new classes offered for married foreign women at the center sponsored by the Seoul city government.

Students are in their 20s to 40s and are comprised of women from Vietnam, Mongolia, China, Russia and Ethiopia.

Some 49,000 married migrant women live in Seoul. Of these, 67.2 percent live in a household earning a monthly wage of less than 2 million won ($1,748) a month, said the city government.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government stated Sunday that there were 140,000 married immigrants living in Seoul as of end of last year. The number was expected to grow to 440,000 by 2030.

The Seoul government stated in May that it will provide 434 million won to help support married immigrant women develop skills to find employment.

The city government stated through this program it will provide lessons to train some 300 women in Guro and Seodaemun districts over the summer months to become manicurists, beauticians, Chinese tutors or even community center counselors.

Because there were an odd number of students in class that day, a Korea JoongAng Daily reporter stepped in as a hand model on June 20 as Tran spoke of her life adjusting to married life in Seoul.

“I’ve always been interested in design and nail art, so I enjoy learning all the different techniques, though I’m always worried about being late for class,” she said. Tran has a 3-year-old daughter whom she takes to day care each morning.

After class ends, she rushes to do groceries, pick up her daughter, and then prepare dinner.

And learning to become a nail artist is not about simply being able to paint colors on nails. The lesson du jour of the nail art class was “silk nail extensions.”

“I practice until 1 a.m. each night and my husband gets annoyed,” she admitted, expertly buffing the nails then snipping a piece of sheer silk gauze to fit over the thumbnail. The silk gauze, layered with glue and powder, form a faux nail that can be shaped by a nail file for a more natural alternative to acrylic nails.

“I can only do it late at night after I put my daughter to bed at 10 p.m. or else she gets curious and touches my kit.”

“It’s my dream to open up a nail shop,” Tran said.

“And my husband told me I can do what I want to do.” She has not had any job opportunities for the past three years while raising her child.

“I’m going to paint the nail a popular color - coral orange. And look, you can’t even tell it’s not real,” she added, with briskness and accuracy in her strokes.

Unfamiliar terms like “maintaining a C-curve” and “finding high-points” and “keep the transparency” are tossed out by their instructor who makes the rounds around the class and gives feedback to each student.

The Seoul Jungbu Women Development Center runs two free classes for married foreign women. Two classes are sponsored by the Seoul Metropolitan Government: nail art and lash extension and skin care and hairstyling.

The nail examination is set for the end of August after a total of 114 hours of lesson, where these women will need to take both a written and practical exam to receive their certification.

Employing these women is a big target, said Park Sun-hee, a beautician instructor and lesson organizer at the center. This is the first time the center has offered nail art classes for immigrant women.

“Some come in with unrealistic expectations about the salary of a nail artist,” admitted Park.

“But we try to emphasize that at least for the first year, the yearly salary can be between 700,000 to one million won. The wages can grow with several years of experience to somewhere between 2 to 2.3 million won in the next couple of years.”

“The center does not simply focus on the practical aspects, but dedicates 30 hours of total class time to lecturing on the importance of skills needed for employment including writing a resume, etiquette, interview techniques and presentation, which are very important in the service industry,” said Park.

Ban Jae-hee, the chairman of the international Korea Nail Design Association and the class instructor said, “This is my first time teaching a multicultural class like this. But even running a nail shop, I have received a lot of clients from different countries, and I picked up a basic greeting in each language. The students who are more fluent in Korean help out those who aren’t.”

Thus, Ban infuses English terminology, makes sure to use the white board and write down key concepts, and speaks slowly and articulately, repeating main themes, so that her class can understand.

“Sometimes the students find it hard to concentrate because of their family situations, but they are determined to learn,” said Ban.

Another Vietnamese woman, Kim Thao Phan, 27, came to class the previous day even though her 6-year-old daughter was running a high fever. The center has a child care room. One of the employees of the center took Phan and her daughter to a nearby hospital.

But Phan came in late in the middle of class the following day, as soon as her daughter’s fever quelled, stating, “I’m worried about falling behind.”

By Sarah Kim [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]
  Multiethnic soldiers ready to serve

Multiethnic soldiers ready to serve

June 13,2012
Han Ki-yeop, left, and Bae Joon-hyoung, right, will be commissioned as Army staff sergeants later this year, becoming the first multiethnic soldiers to become officers in the military, according to the Army. Provided by the Army

As Korea is slowly embracing its transformation into a multicultural society, two soldiers born of non-Korean mothers are poised to become Army officers later this year, according to the Army yesterday. It will be the first time ever for Korea to appoint soldiers from multicultural backgrounds to the rank of military officers.

Bae Joon-hyoung, 22, and Han Ki-yeop, 21, are set to enroll in a 12-week-long training program as officers upon completing basic military training on July 7, the Army said. Once they finish their training program as officers, they will be commissioned as Army staff sergeants, it said.

For decades, this traditionally homogenous country banned those with a non-Korean parent from serving in the military, citing fears it would adversely impact military morale, but it has lowered the entry barrier over recent years.

The most recently revised military service law in 2009 has made it obligatory for those with multiethnic backgrounds, including those who come from interracial families, to serve in the Korean military.

The term “mixed-blood,” often used derogatorily to refer to those with a non-Korean parent, has also been removed from the language of the military law since last year.

The military also changed the terms used in an oath required of newly recruited soldiers and newly commissioned officers.

Previously, the oath mentioned minjok, or people of Korea, as a target of their pledged allegiance. But, because minjok implies only the Korean race, it was replaced by gukmin, another word meaning people of the country, in April of last year.

There are 193 rank-and-file soldiers with multiethnic backgrounds in Korea, 179 in the Army, nine in the Air Force and five in the Navy, according to the Ministry of National Defense.

Bae, whose mother is Vietnamese, said that he wanted to become a soldier after watching soldiers in Korean dramas when he was a child, according to the Army. Bae, from Sangju, North Gyeongsang, applied to be a military officer right after graduating from high school.

Han, born of a Japanese mother, has eight vocational licenses he acquired when attending a commercial high school in his hometown of Jangheung, South Jeolla.
“I was thinking hard as to how to make use of the licenses that I worked so hard to earn and I thought about serving in the military,” Han was quoted as saying in an Army publication.

The two soldiers both hoped that they could give the first salary they received as staff sergeants to their mothers, so that their mothers could visit their own homelands. Another hope, they said, was to be officers respected by rank-and-file soldiers.

As the number of soldiers with multicultural backgrounds is on the rise, the Army, the largest of the Korean military branches, said it is coming up with supportive measures for them.

By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]
  Philippine envoy celebrates multiculturalism in Korea

Philippine envoy celebrates multiculturalism in Korea

06-10-2012 15:41

Philippine Ambassador Luis Cruz, right, poses for a photo with Rep. Jasmine Lee of the ruling Saenuri Party during a festival in Seoul on June 3.
/ Courtesy of Philippine Embassy

By Kim Se-jeong

Filipinos celebrated multiculturalism and the success of migrant workers in Korea last Sunday, at an outdoor festival in Hangang Park, Yeouido, Seoul for their country’s independence day which is June 12.

Ambassador to Korea Luis Cruz, welcomed the families and friends of Filipinos and the Philippines saying how proud he was of Filipinos contribution to Korean society and how South Korea is well on its way to becoming a truly multicultural society.

Cruz said in a recent speech that for multiculturalism to work in a healthy way in Korea it has to be a two-way street.

“I happen to believe that the relationship has to be two-way: foreign spouses should learn Korean culture, but Korean spouses and the Korean in-laws should also be receptive to the culture of foreign family members. This ensures that the benefits of a multicultural family — a family that is naturally predisposed to the wealth of cultures of the two nationalities involved — are fully harnessed,” he said.

The government and society in Korea is new to multiculturalism.

The government started implementing multicultural policies in April 2006 by implementing targeted measures designed to help multicultural families better integrate into Korean society.

In 2007, the “Basic Act for Treatment of Foreigner Residents” was passed, followed by the “Multicultural Family Support Act.”

Jasmine Lee, a naturalized Korean citizen who was born and raised in the Philippines, became the nation’s first naturalized Korean elected as a lawmaker.
In addition to the many Filipinos who became naturalized citizens here, some 6,000 hold residency permits.

“Your efforts and passionate cooperation will make this society a better place. And that better place will appreciate our presence as a valuable part of culture and society,” Lee said in welcoming remarks during the event.

There was live entertainment from well known Filipino entertainers singing popular K-pop tunes to cheers from some 200 festival goers .

Celebrity Filipino singer Bogoy Drilon, who came out on top in 2010’s “Pinoy Dream Academy,” The Philippines’ version of “American Idol,” wowed the crowd with K-pop and Pinoy pop favorites.

Cruz said cultural sharing is what is needed for a truly multicultural society. “It will mean that the foreign spouse is never alienated.”

“A healthy relationship is one that allows both spouses to grow and mature in their own terms and styles, and this need is more pronounced in the case of interracial couples,” he said.

  Shifting over to multiculturalism

Shifting over to multiculturalism

[SERI FOCUS] Married immigrants’ education and job experience are rarely utilized once they arrive in Korea.

May 22,2012
As Korean society continues to grow more multiethnic in composition, discourse on the nation’s identity and values is set to intensify. So far, official policy has underscored assimilation. But it is time to plan more complex policies in anticipation of further influxes of migrants. The focus should be on a combination of measures that maximize the advantages of multiculturalism and reduce the disadvantages to achieve sustained social stability.

The number of multiethnic families - married immigrants, their spouses and children - reached 550,000 in 2011, up from 340,000 in 2008. The government predicts the number of such family members will reach one million by 2020 to account for 1.9 percent of the population, up from 1 percent last year.

Life in Korea for many migrant spouses is less than ideal. The income of multiethnic families is relatively low, with 60 percent earning less than 2 million won ($1,710) a month. Moreover, married immigrants’ education and job experience are rarely effectively utilized once they arrive in Korea. With many only able to land low-skilled jobs, their financial health is fragile.

Korean society in general is not ready to fully embrace cultural diversity yet. According to the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, 36 percent of Koreans are positive about embracing other cultures and living together, significantly lower than 74 percent in European countries. This has led to social and emotional hardships for many multicultural families.

Children in multiethnic families often experience sociopsychological problems and learning disorders due to discrimination at schools and society at large, and a sense of confusion about their identities. Consequently, their school attendance records are far below average. Meanwhile, married immigrants suffer from a lack of cultural understanding between couples, leading to marital friction. The divorce rate of married immigrants has risen seven fold in the past decade.

To resolve such issues, it is necessary to increase society’s acceptance of married immigrants and show respect for their cultural background rather than pushing for their total immersion into Korean culture. To this end, government policy must change from its current focus on assimilation toward one that pursues harmony. The core of this policy would be opportunities to promote understanding and increase acceptance of multiculturalism so immigrants and their families can live and participate in their local community.

There are several tasks to be done to achieve this goal. Multicultural activities and events could be promoted to permanent fixtures on the nation’s cultural calendar. For example, in Toronto, Canada, immigrants organized a “Caribbean Carnival” in 1967 during the centennial celebration of Canada’s founding. Approximately 1.2 million people now visit during the Carnival annually, generating more than $400,000 of revenue for the country’s economy.

Another approach would be to better enhance the self-supporting capabilities of immigrant spouses. This would involve job training and using their language skills and knowledge to help create specialized products.

Establishing an integrated education system consisting of schools, households and figures from the local community, and providing related consulting services is also a desirable path. With the participation of teachers, parents, kindergartens, health centers, private education institutes and local welfare centers, the programs could provide comprehensive consulting. Harvard University, for example, has devised a “complementary learning” program for children of minority groups.

A fourth task would be strengthening mental health services for multiethnic households. Treatment and counseling can be provided in connection with local mental health centers for the members of multiethnic families who have experienced discrimination or social maladjustment.

The fifth task would involve the creation of new and value-added jobs to support the social and economic activities of immigrants. Social enterprises and cooperatives for multiethnic households can be fostered to this end.

Creating a multicultural society in which everyone is happy is essential as Korea will increasingly need foreign labor to replace its aging workforce.

by Kim Jeung-kun
  Re-entry procedures for good foreign workers made easier

Re-entry procedures for good foreign workers made easier

May 10,2012
Starting in early July, “exemplary” foreign workers can be re-employed in Korea three months after returning home under a new law that makes rehiring them simpler and easier, officials said yesterday. Korea softened its rules on the rehiring of foreign workers with Non-professional Employment (E-9) visas in February, as part of efforts to help small firms retain skilled migrant workers and prevent workers with expired visas from overstaying. The revised law will take effect starting July 2.

The new rule will be applied only to foreign manual workers who have not left from their designated workplaces for four years and 10 months.

The law cuts the waiting period of foreign workers who want to return to Korea to three months from six months and does not require them to undergo the Korean Language Proficiency Test if they return to the same employer.

If their designated workplace is closed, foreign workers are asked to have maintained their labor contract with their previous employer at least for one year, labor ministry officials said.

At present, foreign workers with E-9 visas have to leave Korea for six months after completing employment for four years and 10 months. The softened rules will allow them to work again in South Korea for another four years and 10 months.

“The measure is aimed at helping companies retain skilled workers while reducing the number of illegal migrant workers,” said Lee Tae-hee, a senior official at the Labor Ministry. Korea, which has invited foreign workers in for low-paying jobs at small- and medium-sized firms since 2004, plans to allow in 57,000 foreign workers this year, up from 48,000 in 2011.

  A helpful voice on the other end

A helpful voice on the other end

‘I feel like if I can be physically there, I will be able to do so much more.’

Apr 24,2012
Yu Mi-sun, 27, an English-speaking telephone consultant at the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s all-purpose foreign language hotline, searches on the computer database to answer a call in the 120 Dasan Call Center, located in Dongdaemun District, central Seoul, on April 12. By Park Sang-moon
This is part 2 of a 2-part series about a call center in Seoul. Part 1 explored the domestic department of the service yesterday.

“I married my husband in Bangladesh in February - he is a student in Korea and I work here. But the immigration service rejected my husband’s visa. The immigration service and the Korean Embassy won’t tell us why the visa was rejected,” sobs one Bangladeshi woman to the English speaking telephone consultant. “And I’m pregnant. What can I do?”

Immigration law inquiries and migrant workers’ woes are a few frequent issues that the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s year-round foreign language telephone service deals with.

For both non-Korean-speaking residents and visitors faced with the limitations and frustrations of foreign language services available in daily life here - or lack thereof - dialing 120 + 9 connects callers in Seoul to services in five languages: English, Japanese, Mongolian, Vietnamese and Chinese. According to the call center, these languages are representative of the highest number of foreign residents living in Korea.

An English-speaking consultant Park Gwang-in, also known as Dave Park to callers, connected an extra headset to his computer for a Korea JoongAng Daily reporter to listen in on the calls on April 18 in the first floor office at the 120 Dasan Call Center in Dongdaemun District, central Seoul.

Unlike the 24-hour Korean service, Dasan’s foreign language service, available since November 2009, is offered from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

In the background, a consultant speaks Japanese, giving directions to a shopping district, while a Vietnamese consultant is engaged in a lengthy interpretation for almost an hour.

Park, 38, has been with Dasan’s foreign language service since its launch. He says he is not in the position to provide an answer to the Bangladeshi women’s question - why her husband’s visa application was denied. But he directs her to the Seoul Global Center’s immigration representative, who speaks English and is an expert on immigration services.

Dasan’s Korean hotline service, launched by the Seoul Metropolitan Government in September 2007, has integrated with the call centers of the 25 district offices, and has consultants who are trained to answer the questions of callers’ needs ranging from district office affairs to transportation.

The bilingual foreign language consultants get around 50 calls on average per day, half that of the Korean service counterparts. But each call often lasts a little longer than Korean calls, and they have to be versed in a wider range of scenarios.

Over two hours in the afternoon, several requests come in for taxi interpretation, two from different tourists looking for a spa, another from an English teacher moving out from his apartment who needs to get rid of his sofa. Park answers these questions promptly. But the calls in between are varying.

“I want you to translate a text message in English for my fiancee,” says the next caller in Korean, though he dialed the English service. His fiancee is Filipino, and their marriage was apparently arranged by an international marriage broker. “I want to tell her, ‘Don’t trust the agency’s boss too much.’ I don’t want her to be too friendly with him. When I met with him last time, I drank coffee he gave me and felt really strange afterwards. I think he put drugs in it.”

Park replies gravely, though unfazed, “I can translate the message for you. But I think you need to communicate with authorities who can better help you on the issue, especially if drugs are involved.”

Foreign language consultants also have to fend for themselves when angry and ill-tempered people call in. Sometimes people simply complain, “I hate Korea.”

Some take out other frustrations on the call center. Yu Mi-sun, 27, worked as an English-speaking consultant for almost two years. She recounts an incident which occurred several months ago. A female English teacher called the center because she needed an interpreter for McDonald’s delivery. But McDonald’s was not delivering that day because of the snow.

“Then she began swearing and said, ‘I’m going to kill you.’?” Yu said. “She grabbed a taxi and actually came to the call center to complain in person to the foreign language service team manager.”

The foreign language service staff, because the office is smaller than the domestic department, has strong camaraderie. Foreign language consultants work 13-hour shifts every other day.

Park spent three years in Buffalo, hence his fluency in English. Unfortunately for the single ladies in the office, Park, who is one of the few male consultants at the center, is a married man. “My coworkers don’t really see me as a man anymore,” he said with a chuckle.

While calls to the English line vary the most, and the Japanese line gets a lot of tourists, many calls to the Vietnamese, Mongolian and Chinese operator are from foreign women concerned with international marriage procedures or from migrant workers who have difficulty communicating with their employers.

Jadamba Magnaibayar, 37, spent two hours in the morning interpreting for a migrant worker whose mother had passed away. His employer wouldn’t let him go back home to Mongolia for her funeral. “She’s already dead, isn’t she?” his employer told him.

Magnaibayar has worked in the Dasan foreign language service division for two years. She moved from Mongolia to Korea five years ago after marrying a Korean man and is currently a permanent resident.

There is one case which still haunts her.

“A 25-year-old Mongolian woman called and said, ‘I wrote all the songs in the world. Why did everybody steal my songs?’?” Magnaibayar vividly recalls the conversation because she realized that the woman was psychologically disturbed. “She asked, ‘If I get the royalties from the songs, do you think I can earn a lot of money?’?”

The woman married and moved to Korea a year ago. She couldn’t find employment, and had difficulty communicating with her husband, who was 20 years older than her. “She was having problems with her marriage. She called me frequently.”

Her child eventually became sick, but the woman’s husband told her, “The child is sick because of you. I’m going to have you arrested.” The woman was being beaten by her husband. She always had to call in secret because her husband didn’t buy her a cell phone. Over the months, Magnaibayar helped the woman get in touch with various organizations specializing in aiding women in multiethnic marriages.

“One day, she called me from the police station. She said, ‘Unni [older sister], I stabbed my husband. You will take care of my daughter, right? You have a child, too.’?”

Magnaibayar has not heard from her since. She believes the child was last in the care of the Seoul Metropolitan Children’s Welfare Center. “But I don’t even know if the child is alive anymore because she had been so sick.”

“Sometimes, I feel so frustrated that I can only answer through the phone. I feel like if I can be physically there, I will be able to do so much more,” Magnaibayar said, a tremor in her voice.

By Sarah Kim [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]
  A different voice

A different voice

Apr 21,2012

Jasmine Lee

Jasmine Lee, 35, who was elected as a proportional representative for the ruling Saenuri Party in the April 11 election, tells reporters on April 17 at the National Assembly that she was offended by recent xenophobic posts on the Internet, but she witnessed how tolerant Korean society can be toward naturalized citizens. Lee, who comes from the Philippines, was naturalized after marrying a Korean man. "I will do my best to work for social minorities as well as for multicultural families. I don't want to end up as a token figure in Korean politics." By Kim Hyung-soo
  Expat women raise funds for regional migrant center

Expat women raise funds for regional migrant center

Five organizations collaborate to buy and donate van

Apr 10,2012
Representatives from five organizations - the Seoul International Women’s Association, the British Association of Seoul, the American Women’s Club of Korea, the American Women’s Club of Korea’s Thrift Shop Association and the Australian & New Zealand Association of South Korea - pose at Yongsan Family Park in front of a minivan they donated to a regional multicultural center, on Wednesday. By Park Sang-moon

Expat women affiliated with five organizations in Korea have come together to raise money for a minivan they donated to a regional multicultural center as part of their efforts to become involved in Korean society and help underprivileged people. It’s the first time the groups have worked together to raise money.

Representatives from the five organizations - the Seoul International Women’s Association, the British Association of Seoul, the American Women’s Club of Korea, the American Women’s Club of Korea’s Thrift Shop Association and the Australian & New Zealand Association of South Korea - gave the van to the center in a ceremony held Wednesday at Yongsan Family Park.

“What’s really great about this donation is that it’s a very expensive minivan for the multicultural center and will be used to pick up people living remotely,” Terri Hartman, the president of the Seoul International Women’s Association, said. “What makes it really special is that many women are putting their money together to help people in need, to partner together to do something good.

“It’s a good investment to help women who need job training and language skills to thrive in Korea.”

Cho Sung-ok, the chairwoman of the multicultural center, which is located in Gangjin County, South Jeolla, said the van will be used to offer door-to-door services for marriage migrant women who aren’t yet familiar with Korean culture.

“We opened the center last year, but didn’t have a van to provide door-to-door services such as medical care or language programs,” Cho said.

The members of the organizations are mostly wives of foreign government officials - such as ambassadors - and businessmen who are currently working in Korea.

Sister Oh Kwang-shim, the director of development at Planting Love, a charity formed by nuns, was the person who connected the organizations to the center in Gangjin County. She said that expat women’s groups have been offering help to the underprivileged for more than 20 years.

“We have held annual international fundraising events for people with disabilities for 21 years, and the five organizations have always helped us,” Oh said. “When we founded a shelter for pregnant girls, a school for the blind in Chungju and a day care center for people with disabilities in Gwangju, they came to us and volunteered, providing homemade baked goods and other things.

“They basically want to dedicate themselves to Korea, get to know Korean society and mingle with the people,” Oh said. “Now we are connecting them with local women who are running charities or shelters and need volunteers or help.”

“We are very glad to have a chance to do something for Korea,” Helen Bridgman, the president of the British Association of Seoul, said. “As foreigners, it’s very rewarding to do something in Korea. We have learned a lot from Korea, and I was very impressed with the dedication of Korean people who work for charities.”

In 2011, the four organizations formed a welfare committee in order to help Korean people in need.

“We’re thinking of holding a regular meeting to exchange our ideas about welfare,” she said. “We are also thinking about other projects that we can do together.”

By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]
  Mixed-race students to get help with school

Mixed-race students to get help with school

‘We plan to create an environment in which multicultural students can develop.’

Mar 23,2012
Lee Ju-ho, the minister of education, science and technology, poses with students at Itaewon Elementary School in Yongsan District, central Seoul, last week. Across Korea, the number of mixed-race students increased to 0.55 percent of the total student population as of last year. [JoongAng Ilbo]

Last week, Lee Ju-ho, the minister of education, science and technology, paid a visit to Itaewon Elementary School in Yongsan District, central Seoul, to observe how mixed-race students are adapting to the Korean learning environment.

His visit came after the ministry announced a string of enhanced measures to help mixed-race students settle into Korean schools. The most significant change is an increase in the number of programs designed to prepare mixed-race students for entry into regular elementary, middle and high schools.

“We plan to create an environment in which multicultural students can develop their abilities without discrimination at Korean schools, which will ultimately be good for all students,” Lee said during the school visit.

Currently, there are three preparatory programs for mixed-race students at schools in Seoul, Busan and Gwangju.

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology plans to expand that number to 26 programs at schools nationwide this year.

The six-month programs aim to prepare mixed-race students for entry into regular schools through courses in Korean language and culture. The ministry’s plan will also add Korean-language classes at elementary, middle and high schools with mixed-race students.

In addition, the number of bilingual instructors will increase to 1,200 from the current 125 by 2015.

The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education will also hire 26 coordinators dedicated to helping mixed-race students adapt to school.

Another part of the ministry’s plan addresses peer violence.

Local schools will offer counseling services to mixed-race students who are vulnerable to bullying and will allow them to transfer other schools if necessary without going through complex procedures.

Meanwhile, Korean students will be taught that violence encompasses both violent actions and discriminatory words.

The ministry’s announcement comes as the number of students from multiethnic families continues to rise. In 2007, there were 14,654 mixed-race students attending Korean schools, accounting for merely 0.19 percent of the country’s total student population. Last year, the figure jumped to 38,678 students, taking up 0.55 percent of the total. If the current trend continues, the ministry expects the mixed-race student population to take up more than 1 percent of the total by 2014.

“The growing number of multicultural students should phase in well with our public education system so that they can be raised to become talented members of our society,” an official from the ministry said.

There are lingering concerns, however, that mixed-race students who drop out of school because of the financial or undocumented immigrant status of their parents are being neglected outside of school.

Experts say that several thousand mixed-race students have dropped out of school, pointing to a need for additional measures to protect them as well.

By Lee Eun-joo [angie@joongang.co.kr]
  Going beyond difference

Going beyond difference

Mar 14,2012
In Korea, there is a group of people called “multicultural children” instead of their real names. The number of children born to one Korean and one foreign parent has increased 2.9 times to 38,000 - or 0.55 percent of all students as of 2011 - during the last five years. But our schools’ and education authorities’ lack of policies for them has resulted in various types of discrimination just because of a difference in skin color. Some of these children have become the victims of violence at their schools.

Under the circumstances, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has come up with concrete policies to educate these children, as they are valuable assets. The government’s previous policies on mixed-race children regarded them as an “alienated class” and were aimed at providing them with aid. But a recent shift in policy could mark the beginning of a significant change in the government’s approach, as it has opened the way to embrace them for their ultimate contributions to our society.

We welcome the government’s latest decision to set up “preliminary” schools across the nation so that these children can adapt to their new surroundings for six months before enrolling in regular schools. Many of these children had to be placed at regular schools close to their homes as soon as they entered the country, and have subsequently experienced great difficulty adjusting to their new school environments. Therefore, the government will also establish Korean language courses for them at elementary, middle and high schools around the country and assign mentors to each one of them to accelerate their assimilation process in an effort to substantially promote their academic performance.

In addition, the government took a groundbreaking step in enabling mixed-race students to learn their mother tongue at their schools during after-school hours, on weekends or on vacation. The government’s efforts are desirable as they may not only induce parents to participate in their children’s education but also enhance their pride as multicultural families.

But policies alone are not enough. Korean teachers and students must put these policies into action by accepting mixed-race children as their precious pupils and peers. Our school community must go way beyond simply accepting differences in skin color. Education should focus on guiding our kids to accumulate diverse experiences so they will respect the value of diversity through mixed-race students. Only when our kids overcome differences can they weather the challenging global era.
  Quality family time

Quality family time

Mar 05,2012

Multicultural families spend time together at Everland theme park in Yongin, Gyeonggi, yesterday. Kia Motors invited 100 members of multicultural families and 100 Kia car drivers to the event. It also provided use of its vehicles. Provided by the company
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