Korean society has been widely considered a racially homogeneous nation. However, Korea is rapidly turning into a multicultural society as job-seeking migrants, mostly from Southeast Asia, move in. According to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs on August 1, the number of foreigners who have been living in Korea for more than three months has increased by about 35 percent since last year. Especially notable, the number of immigrant women married to Korean men and the member of children from such couples increased by 46.1 percent during last year. This increase has been accompanied by a greater number of social and civil rights problems, and there have been many voices urging Korean society to understand the life of immigrant women and try to fix such problems.
As a part of an effort to understand immigrant women’s problems, the Asian Center for Women’s Studies held a symposium titled, “Immigrant Marriage Seen from a Viewpoint of Women’s Rights” on August 3 at Ewha. The symposium brought together Korean and Japanese scholar and activists studying the problem, and focused on understanding the current situation of immigrant women in Korea and discovering solutions to their problems.
The symposium was divided into three sessions. During the first two sessions, Korean presenters gave speeches regarding the present state of immigrant women and their rights, and Japanese presenters suggested possible solutions. The first session was led by Professor Kim Young-ok (Korean Women’s Institute), and Professor Yosida Youko (Ritsumeikan Graduate School), who offered examples of problems faced by immigrant women in both Korea and Japan. Kim strongly criticized the widespread ethnocentrism in Korea and argued that Korean society should practice multiculturalism.
The second session was followed by Han Kook-yum, a representative of the Woman Migrants Human Rights Center, and Enoi Yukari, the director of the Toyonaka Association for Intercultural Activities and Communication (TAIAC). Han noted that most immigrant women get married through marriage agencies and Korean men mostly pay for the marriage, causing the women to be usually treated as merchandise, and not as wives. Han also noted problems with the way their husbands and other neighbors treat the migrant women. Korean husbands, who are usually about 10 to 30 years older than their wives, habitually commit domestic violence, and sexual harassment, and debase the women’s dignity. Han said, “We have to try to change the patriarchal society system, to get rid of women’s alienation, and to embrace foreigners to fundamentally solve the immigrant women’s problems.”
Enoi briefly described the condition of immigrant women in Japan, and suggested an immigrant women’s support system run by TAIAC, as a model for a possible solution in Korean local society. The support system includes using multiple languages in the local community, promoting immigrant mothers’ gatherings, and recruiting migrant women as volunteer workers for local foreign language education. The major goal of the support system is to actively accept immigrant women and their children as Japanese citizens, and allow them to participate in the society.
Lastly, Oh Hye-ran, the head of the Seoul Foundation of Woman & Family; Pak Mi-soon, an investigator for the National Human Rights Commission of Korea; other presenters participated in a roundtable discussion. Each participant promised to give further support and offer more opportunities for migrant women to participate in various types of work in local communities.
저작권자 © Ewha Voice 무단전재 및 재배포 금지