Our future as a mixed society
The Korea Times
Koreans are going to have to get over their ethno-nationalism and embrace immigration, said Lee Suh-yoon. Our country’s birth rate is projected to sink below one child per woman this year, and South Korea’s workforce “is aging faster than any other advanced economy’s.” The government’s focus has been on encouraging Korean women to have more babies, but that’s not going to cut it. Despite the 10 percent youth unemployment rate, factories and construction sites already face shortages of workers, because young Koreans refuse to do dirty and dangerous jobs. Instead, that work is done by 280,000 mostly Southeast Asian migrants here on temporary visas. As our population gets grayer, we will need many more willing foreign workers. We can attract them by allowing immigrants to become Korean citizens, which will mean transitioning to a multiracial society. It’s a tall order, since Koreans are “taught from an early age to be proud of their Korean bloodline,” and “conditioned into cultural homogeneity.” Sociologists say that could change if the truth about Korea’s past were made more widely known. Some 500 years ago, for example, nearly 10 percent of the population was foreign, and their genes are part of what is now Korean. Our “transition to a multiracial society is inevitable”—we might as well embrace it.