The Migration Phenomenon in South Korea

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Korean culture can be challenging for some foreigners. Living and working in Korea means living in an Eastern country, and dealing with the non-Western culture in which we grew up and with which we are familiar. Therefore, we have to get used to living with aspects of society and culture that are completely different from ours. In South Korea, immigrants account for about 10% of the total population, with Seoul, the country’s capital, hosting the most international communities. Many immigrants live in multi-generational homes that provide domestic help and contribute to the local economy.

Image retrieved from Freepik.

In the last decade, the phenomenon of migration has gained more attention due to the rise of international conflicts and economic recessions. South Korean migration is no exception, as it has become an integral part of the country’s socio-economic development. Although South Korea has much higher rates of population growth, prosperity, and democracy than other countries, it also has its dark side, especially when it comes to receiving immigrants, whether for humanitarian reasons or not. Most migration policies can be seen as xenophobic, and foreigners must constantly face institutional xenophobia. Many times, Koreans themselves can reason with binary thinking: Koreans on one side and foreigners on the other. Data from the National Statistical Office of South Korea showed that one in five foreigners suffers discrimination, with nationality (60.9%) and lack of proficiency in the Korean language (25.7%) being the main causes. These negative connotations towards immigrants are due to the fact that historically they were subject to forced migration by the occupation forces during the Korean War. In addition, they have negative connotations towards immigrants who take jobs away from native workers.

Image retrieved from BBC News Mundo.

However, as many immigrants tell of their bad experiences in that country, many others find that living in South Korea is a great opportunity for family life, as it embraces modernity, despite its great traditions. In addition, in cities like Seoul, there is a safe, open environment for studying and socializing. Therefore, South Korea is one of the destinations closest to becoming a focus of higher education. The country has attracted the attention of many international students because it offers a high quality of life, renowned universities, and a wealth of English and native language courses. Popular reasons to visit South Korea include experiencing new social norms and traditions, learning the Korean language, and buying consumer goods at lower prices. Visitors also have the opportunity to work and enjoy leisure activities in different cities of the country.

Image retrieved from BBC News Mundo.

As in any country you are looking to migrate to, you will find advantages and disadvantages to consider. Thanks to globalization and the wide reach of Korean entertainment media internationally, South Korea is currently a destination country for many foreigners. In recent years, we have seen how South Korea has gradually adopted a more tolerant approach to immigration, allowing new citizens to help themselves by applying for citizenship or having the government implement family planning strategies. Although not yet fully inclusive, local authorities have been making significant efforts to better understand and adapt to the needs of immigrants.

Written by: Rocio Ruiz

Reviewed by: Luisa Quintero


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