Hyunmo Choi (Director of the Center for Migrant Workers’ Human Rights in Korea)
Discussion of ‘multiculturalism’ in Korean society has been on the rise since the beginning of the 1980s, as labor migration to Korea has been steadily increasing, marriage migration to Korea through international marriages, and the number of children from these married families has rapidly increased. It seems to reflect a series of social movements to respond to the resulting social and cultural changes.
“Multicultural families, multicultural education, multicultural instructors, multicultural projects, multicultural lectures, multicultural festivals, multicultural villages, multicultural sensibility, multicultural centers, multicultural phenomena, multicultural society, multicultural policies, multiculturalism… ”
Not long ago, I gave a lecture on the topic of ‘multicultural society and the human rights of migrant workers’ in a citizen education program of a peace human rights organization. I have been involved in activities for the protection of the human rights of migrant workers for a long time, but I was somewhat unfamiliar with the concept of ‘multiculturalism’, which has been mentioned rapidly recently, so I read various materials related to ‘multicultural’ or ‘multicultural society’ while preparing the lecture. I found and sorted it out. In the process, I was surprised to find that new words starting with the word ‘multiculturalism’ are overflowing like a flood in our society, and at the same time, I was also aware of the significance of the intention for a desirable change to a multicultural society represented by ‘multiculturalism’. had the opportunity to expand the
The word ‘multicultural’ literally means the existence of various cultures. And ‘multicultural phenomenon or multicultural tendency’ is a term that expresses the reality in which diverse and heterogeneous cultures are mixed or changing from a relatively single and homogeneous culture, and is itself value-neutral. On the other hand, the term ‘multiculturalism’ started to be used in discussions about policies that deal with cultural diversity in multiracial and multiethnic societies. It is a rather normative concept of creating a space where communication between cultures becomes active and a new culture with universal consensus is created by removing the hierarchy and boundaries between the mainstream and subcultures. Here, ‘multicultural society’ means an ‘open society where people with diverse cultural identities enjoy equal status in one society and coexist and coexist through respect and communication, beyond the barriers of ethnicity, race, religion, language, and ideology’. can be said to mean
As of 2009, there are 1.16 million migrants living in Korea today, more than 2% of the total population. The ratio of international marriages has reached an average of 12% of all marriages and 40% in rural areas, and the increase is expected to accelerate in the future. In fact, recent statistical data from government agencies warn that Korean society, which is experiencing the world’s lowest fertility rate and a rapidly aging population, will experience a severe labor shortage along with a rapid population decline in the near future, and the inevitability of an influx of migrants to fill the gap. is suggesting Although there are some differences depending on the institution that conducted the relevant statistical survey, it is said that after 10 years, 1 in 20 people will become a foreigner, and in 2050, 40 years later, at least 1 in 10 people will be a foreigner. The Korean society, which has maintained its identity as a single nation in its long history, is about to enter a multi-racial and multi-ethnic society.
In response to this prediction, almost all government ministries and local governments are vying to implement large-scale ‘multicultural’-related policies, and Korean society is also embracing ‘multiculturalism’ and the entire society is in turmoil. However, those who are concerned about the expansion of the right perception of ‘multiculturalism’ and social change cannot be optimistic about this phenomenon. This is because, under the guise of ‘multicultural policy’ pouring only quantitatively, there is only one-sided coercion of assimilation, and there is no ‘multicultural society’ as an open society that improves qualitatively through mutual respect and communication.
Among the materials I came across while preparing for the lecture, there is a book that I want to give its own meaning. It is 『Naturalized Surnames that Changed Our History』 (Park Kihyun, 2007, Morning of History). According to the publisher’s introduction, the author, who is always thinking about life and death, pain and happiness, joy and sorrow, and wants to write stories for those who are struggling, through this book,求), India, Vietnam, Mongolia, Jurchen, Uyghur, Khitan, Xiongnu, Mongolia, China, Japan, and Europe, the footsteps of strangers are meticulously arranged based on various historical data.
Focusing on the lives of nine representative naturalized foreigners, this book sheds light on the people who have had a great influence on our history, as well as the appearance and flow of naturalized people who came to this land for various reasons, such as personal preference, political exile, and collective exile, and lived with them by time. It is pointed out one by one based on objective data. Naturalized strangers in history were those who contributed to the development and prosperity of each field of our society by conveying different cultures and cultures. And the time period in the history in which they lived was not exclusion and discrimination, but an ‘open society where they lived together’ that respected and actively embraced their roles in various fields such as politics, economy, society, culture, and science.
According to the 2001 Census (Statistics Office), there are more strangers than you think, who have become ‘us’ together through a long history. According to this statistic, about 26% of the current Korean population is of naturalized ancestry, and there are far more newly created naturalized surnames (442) than traditional surnames (285). In addition, if you look at the origins of the traditional surnames, about 40% of them have as their ancestors foreigners who have settled in this land for a long time. From a long time ago, we have been living with various strangers all along. In the ‘us’ that we define as ‘we’, ‘we’, not ‘we’, has been together for a long time.
In order to prepare for a desirable future, it is said that deep reflection on the past and a cold-hearted critique of reality are required. Rather than making a fuss as if we were facing a social upheaval unprecedented in history by saying that we are aiming for a ‘multicultural society’ in the 21st century, we are reminded of the “multicultural genes” already inherent in us through the flow of long history, Perhaps the first thing to learn is sex. “We are the Hankyoreh. As long as we are defined by the verse of the song “We are the descendants of Dangun”, would it be too much of a leap forward to say that the development of a true ‘multicultural society’ is only a long way off?
When I stand in a position to talk about ‘multiculturalism’ for a while, I think I’ll be talking about the story in the book 『The Naturalized Last Names That Changed Our History』.