Anchor: The number of foreign nationals in Korea has reached an all-time high of one-point-five million, but concerns are growing that conflict may arise between Koreans and foreigners as Korea transforms from a racially homogeneous society into a multiethnic one. Kim In-kyung reports.
Report: The number of foreigners living in Korea has topped one-point-five million people for the first time. That means three in every one hundred residents are foreigners.
According to the Ministry of Justice and the Korean Immigration Service Monday, the number of foreigners living in Korea jumped more than twice in the past ten years from 678-thousand-687 in 2003 to one-million-501-thousand-761 as of Sunday.
Until the late 1990s, foreign nationals, mostly U.S. soldiers, tourists and industrial trainees, only numbered about 380-thousand and were rare to see in the South. But the number began to increase rapidly in the last decade as the government granted working visas to ethnic Koreans living in China and Central Asian countries in 2007. In 2007, the number of foreign residents passed one million for the first time.
About half of the foreign nationals are Chinese, including Chinese citizens of Korean descent, followed by Americans and Vietnamese at nine and eight percent of the total, respectively. Those from Japan, the Philippines and Thailand made up about three percent each of the foreign population, followed by people from Uzbekistan, Indonesia and Mongolia.
Multiethnic families, largely formed by foreign brides married to Korean men, numbered 267-thousand-727 at the end of last year.
The government has implemented a range of policies from language classes to job training to meet the needs of foreign residents, but concerns are growing that conflict between Koreans and foreigners and among different races in general may arise due to a lack of consensus on social integration.
Director Gwak Jae-seok of the Migration and Diaspora Research Institute said Korea has traditionally been a racially homogenous society, but has now become a multicultural nation where Koreans have to live side by side with foreigners. He said the government has to establish policies for marriage immigrants, Korean-Chinese and migrant workers to reduce hostilities against multiculturalism and to make a sustainable society.
Kim In-kyung, KBS World Radio News.