Homogeneity in South Korea

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Today, here in the United States, we live in a multicultural melting pot where ethnicities around the world are welcome to stay and live. Contrast this to Korea, there is a prevailing idea that homogeneity of the Korean population is essential to keep their cultural and national identity on the peninsula. According to official statistics from Korea’s Ministry of Justice, 1.8 percent of Korea’s 50 million people are foreign citizens with resident status in Korea. The idea of Korean racial purity and xenophobia ultimately results in discrimination and prejudice against foreigners living in Korea and children of mixed Korean blood and is rapidly becoming a social problem that must be dealt with. This can be observed in the 2011 Korean movie Punch (완득이) where despite discrimination and prejudice not being the main topic of the movie, it can be observed as part of the background of the plot.

Although the main story of Punch is about a high school student named Wandeuk coming-of-age through the game of kick-boxing, the secondary story of foreigners, including his Filipino mother, shows the general hard time they have in a country that takes pride in its homogenous society. Take for example in the movie (warning, spoiler’s ahead), Wandeuk initially views his Filipino mother as a stranger when he first meets her. Not only that, the high school teacher’s father is a rich factory owner who abuses foreigners for their cheap labor due to them being in Korea illegally and uses the fear of deportation to continue these abuses. The high school teacher, nicknamed, “Dong-zoo” (똥주), therefore confronts his father as a human rights advocate albeit secretly as he is a high school teacher first. Ultimately, the plot leads to Wandeuk finally accepti...

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...itants to integrate them into Korean society and to instill a sense of friendliness among the ethnic Koreans already living there towards their new neighbors. The future is heading towards the right path as support centers for foreign nationals are set up to help with the integration into Korean society. These centers, called Multicultural Family Support Centers have grown substantially recently as there were initially 37 centers in 2007 to 200 centers in 2012. This is an indication of the small, but growing population of foreign and multicultural people that continue to reside in Korea. The centers provide Korean language tutoring, interpretation services, cultural awareness programs, counseling services in order ease the transition of living in Korea, especially for immigrant wives or husbands who have trouble adapting to the Korean cultural of their spouses.
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