Is Korea Embracing Multi Ethnic-Multicultural Status? Urgent Calls for Immigration Policy Reform
These days, as you walk around the streets, you can sense an increased proportion of foreigners in the country. Although the ratio of domestic foreigners briefly declined due to the aftermath of COVID-19, by the end of September, the proportion of foreign residents in Korea reached 4.89% of the total population, approaching 5%. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) standards for a multiethnic and multicultural country, the benchmark of 5% is expected to be officially surpassed next year. The domestic proportion of foreigners is increasing at a faster pace than in Japan, which had accepted foreign workers before us.
According to the Ministry of Justice, as of the end of September 2023, the proportion of foreign residents in Korea, categorized by nationality, was reported as follows: China 37.8%, Vietnam 10.5%, Thailand 9%, the United States 7%, and Uzbekistan 3.5%. With the increasing proportion of foreign residents in the country, concerns among the public are also growing as the number of illegal residents has consistently risen over the past decade.
On the other hand, this year's birth rate in Korea is expected to decrease even further compared to last year (0.78%), marking the lowest among the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. The government is facing opinions suggesting that, in light of social issues such as population aging and declining birth rates, it should consider reviewing immigration policies for future economic activities.
Korea has already established a national identity centered around homogeneity, being a country with a predominantly single ethnic group. Consequently, it is one of the countries lacking racial diversity in its social structure. However, with the increasing influx of foreign residents, it appears that Korean citizens should adopt a more open attitude towards the immigrant population.