Immigration to South Korea

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Although immigration to South Korea is low due to strict immigration policies, it is on the rise. Foreign residents account for close to 3% of the total population.[1]

Most immigrants are not eligible for citizenship or even permanent residency, unless they are married to a South Korean citizen or have invested more than $5 million USD in the local economy[citation needed]. An exception is made for those whose non-financial contribution to the nation has been specifically recognized by the Minister of Justice, and for holders of a business visa who have invested more than US$500,000.[2]

Government agencies[edit]

Immigration policy is overseen by the Ministry of Justice through the Korea Immigration Service. Related ministries include: Ministry of Labor, Ministry of Health and Welfare, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The Nationality Act, Immigration Control Act, Multicultural Families Support the Act, and Framework Act on Treatment of Foreigners are the foundation of immigration policy in Korea.

The government of Korea initiated a discussion whether to establish independent Immigration Office to accommodate fast-growing immigration and to prepare inclusive and rational immigration policies, from 2003, without progress. The Foreigner Policy Committee headed by the Prime Minister is responsible for coordinating policies concerning foreigners, which had formerly been handled by multiple ministries. However, its role is limited due to a shortage of resources and manpower. Establishing an Immigration Office is expected to solve these problems by concentrating all the related resources and manpower under one umbrella.[3]

According to the UN Recommendations on Statistics of International Migration (revised in 1998), long-term international immigration is recorded after an individual enters a country and establishes his usual place of residence there for more than a year. So, When Korea government build new policies, immigrant laborers and children of illegal migrants should be counted to follow this guideline.

The Republic of Korea is a signatory to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. The Korean government is the competent authority to determine refugee status in Korea.

Migrant laborers[edit]

Korea used to be a migrant-source country, sending farmers, miners, nurses, and workers to the United States, Germany, and the Middle East. The Korean diaspora numbers 6.82 million as of 2009, including 2.34 million in China and 2.1 million in the United States, a slight decline of 220,000 since 2007.[4]

The South Korean economy grew almost non-stop from near zero to over a trillion dollars in less than half a century

Korea experienced government-initiated rapid economic growth from the 1970s on, which has been called the "Miracle on the Han River". Until the end of the 1980s, Korea was able to sustain its development without foreign laborers because it had enough cheap labor. In the 1990s, however, Korea's plummeting birth rate and growing cost of labor caused labor shortages especially in the so-called "3D jobs" (for "dirty, dangerous, and difficult").

Economic development and urbanization led many people to leave rural areas and move to the city in search of jobs and better living conditions. However, according to Confucian norms, the eldest son must remain in the countryside with his parents. A chronic shortage of marriageable women arose in rural areas, and international marriages began to fill this unmet demand. Most international marriage cases are handled by dating service companies that earn a commission.

Many migrant workers live in Korea, particularly in the industrial suburbs of Gyeonggi Province such as Siheung and Ansan, where foreigners account for 7.6% of the population.[5] The largest number of migrants come from China; out of a total of 55,154 D-3 visa holders in 2005, 17,787 were from China.[6] Other migrants come from South and Southeast Asia.

Interracial marriage[edit]

Since the late 1990s, interracial marriages in South Korea have grown rapidly, especially in rural farming communities. Most brides come from China (approximately 60%, mostly ethnic Koreans in China), followed by Vietnam and other Asian countries.[7] A smaller number of South Korean women marry foreign husbands, with husbands from China also leading in this category, followed by Japan.[8]

In 2005, there were 31,180 marriages between South Korean men and non-Korean women; there were 11,941 marriages between South Korean women and non-Korean men. Together, these account for more than 10% of the total number of marriages in 2005.[9] However this number has dropped significantly, and now represent less than 10% of total marriages in South Korea.[citation needed] Most foreign brides enter South Korea for economic reasons and divorces between Korean men and foreign brides make up 40% of Korea's total divorce rate.[citation needed]

Kosian
Hangul 코시안 or 온누리안
Revised Romanization Kosian or Onnurian
McCune–Reischauer K'osian or Onnurian

The terms "kosian" or "onnurian" refer to a person of mixed heritage, most commonly applied to children of a South Korean father and a Southeast Asian mother.[10] The term "Kosian" was coined in 1997 by intercultural families to refer to themselves,[11] but its use spread in the early 2000s as international marriages became increasingly common in rural areas.[12] It is considered offensive by some who prefer to identify simply as Korean.[13][14] Mixed-race Koreans have asked the media to refrain from using the term "Kosian",[15] and the Korean office of Amnesty International claims that "Kosian" represents racial discrimination.[16]

Mixed-race children currently make up only 0.5% of children born in South Korea.[citation needed] According to Pearl S. Buck International, there are approximately 30,000 mixed-race children in South Korea.[17] They often face discrimination.[18]

Recent history[edit]

In 2007 the UN declared Korea an official receiving country. The number of foreigners in South Korea grew from 390,000 in 1997 to 1 million in 2007. Among these are 630,000 temporary laborers, as well as 100,000 foreigners married to South Korean nationals. Furthermore, there are 230,000 illegal immigrants.

Main sending countries are Asian countries, such as China, Vietnam, Mongolia, the Philippines, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. However, migrants also come from Nigeria, Ghana, Russia, and the United States.[19]

From June 14, 1998, those who have at least one Korean parent are automatically granted Korean nationality from birth, regardless of their decisions on whether to choose the nationality of the foreign parent or the country of birth (if born outside Korea).

Requirements for General Naturalization include:

  • Must have had domicile address in R.O.K. for more than five consecutive years
  • Must be a legal adult according to Korean Civil Law
  • Must have good conduct
  • Must have the ability to maintain living on his/her own assets or skills; or is a dependent member of a family capable of the feat. Applicants must have basic knowledge befitting a Korean national; such as understanding of the Korean language, customs and culture

The South Korean Government says it wants to create a multicultural society and foreigner-friendly environment.[20]

Issues with current immigrant policies[edit]

As described in the new national plan for immigration policy, the government claims a world-class Korea welcoming of foreigners. However, critics argue that the government’s goals and policies are fundamentally discriminatory. In response, the South Korean government introduced new regulations in April 2014, which meant foreign spouses would have to pass a Korean-language proficiency test and earn a minimum wage of $14,000.[21][22]

Temporary workers and illegal immigrants[edit]

Since 1991 Korea has experienced a large influx of foreign workers. Approximately 10,000 Asian workers came to Korea under a newly established trainee program in 1992. In June 1996, there were 57,000 trainees in Korea. Despite its growth, the trainee program also had problems—namely that the trainees became undocumented workers due to wage differentials, and that they were not protected by the Labor Standard Law as they were not considered laborers.

Since 2004, the Korean government has followed the "Employment Permit Program" for foreigners, the product of a decade of interaction between Korean citizens and foreign migrant workers. Legally, foreigners are allowed to enter mainly to fulfill low-wage jobs, and they are excluded from receiving social services. Public opinion data shows that Korean citizens retain a discriminatory attitude towards foreign workers.

Immigration violations of human rights[edit]

There are many reports from legal and illegal immigrants which have jailed in many prisons in South Korea because of small problems or misunderstanding their visas for long time. Also, there are some reports about beating and abusing the prisoners. South Korea immigration also forced them to buy the deportation ticket.

Foreign brides and children of multicultural families[edit]

Foreign brides and their multicultural children are growing into a major political issue. Sending countries are likely to worry about their immigrants due to deep-rooted discrimination against foreigners in Korea. Now, most immigration into Korea comes from Southeast Asia, and immigrant treatment, particularly if there is abuse of foreign brides, is likely to provoke not only domestic problems, but also diplomatic tension. What immigration there has been, is frequently so focused on the birth-rate problem that it is more properly called bride-importing than immigration.[23]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Hadid, Akli (July 18, 2014). "South Korea Redefines Multiculturalism". The Diplomat. 
  2. ^ "Permanent Residency," retrieved 2006-11-26 from Bureau of Immigration website. (On-Line Service:FAQ:Permanent Residency). Can be reached directly at web.archive.org, retrieved 2006-11-26.
  3. ^ Jaehong Kim. 석동현 출입국 외국인정책본부장. LawTimes (in Korean). 
  4. ^ "Korean Diasporas Statistics". Overseas Korean Foundation. 
  5. ^ Mundy, Simon (September 17, 2013). "S Korea struggles to take in foreign workers". Financial Times. 
  6. ^ Bureau of Immigration (2006). "국적 및 체류자격별". 2005년도 출입국관리 통계연보. Seoul. pp. 420–473. 
  7. ^ National Statistical Office (South Korea). "혼인종류/외국인 처의 국적별 혼인". KOSIS. Retrieved 2006-11-21. 
  8. ^ National Statistical Office (South Korea). "혼인종류/외국인 남편의 국적별 혼인". KOSIS. Retrieved 2006-11-21. 
  9. ^ National Statistical Office (South Korea). "인구동태건수 및 동태율 추이". KOSIS. Retrieved 2006-11-21. 
  10. ^ "코시안의 집이란". Kosian House website. Retrieved 2006-11-01. 
  11. ^ "KOSIAN Community". Ansan Immigrant Center website. Retrieved 2006-11-01. [dead link]
  12. ^ "'코시안'(Kosian) 쓰지 마라! (Do not use Kosian)". Naver news (in Korean). February 23, 2006. Retrieved 2006-03-04. 
  13. ^ Myth of Pure-Blood Nationalism Blocks Multi-Ethnic Society in The Korean Times
  14. ^ "'코시안'(Kosian) 쓰지 마라!". Naver news (Korean language) February 23, 2006 (in Korean). Retrieved 2006-03-04. 
  15. ^ We’re ‘Koreans,’ not ‘Kosians’: multicultural families
  16. ^ AMNESTY International South Korea, 2006, Do not use the new word Kosian PDF
  17. ^ "Ward's Win Brings 'Race' to the Fore". Korea Times. February 9, 2006. Retrieved 2006-03-04. 
  18. ^ "For mixed-race children in Korea, happiness is too far away". Yonhap News. Retrieved 2006-03-04. 
  19. ^ "Immigrants in Korea". National Statistics Office. 
  20. ^ Basic Plan South Korean Government
  21. ^ Jeonghoon Jang. 아름다운 재단 - 공감. Beautiful Foundation (in Korean). 
  22. ^ "South Korea government steps in to regulate mixed marriages". The Japan Times. Agence France-Presse / Jiji Press. 12 April 2014. 
  23. ^ Prof. Robert Kelly. "Korea’s Slow Boiling Demographic Crisis". Asian Security & US Foreign Relations Blog. 

See also[edit]

External links[edit]