Multicultural kids still got it rough: Ye Olde Chosun

The Korea Times reports that last year saw a huge jump in the number of children born to multicultural families:

Births from multiracial marriages sharply increased last year at a far higher level than among Koreans, figures showed Wednesday.

According to Statistics Korea, 22,014 babies were born to such families last year, up 1,702 or 8.4 percent from the previous year. The rate is much higher than the 0.2 percent increase for Korean couples.

But their contribution may shrink in the future as divorces for this demographic have continuously risen and there has been a relatively big decline in interracial marriages.

The Chosun Ilbo also notes a big jump in the number of multicultural children born over the last four years, but also notes that these children are having a rough go at it in school.

Some kids are teased by their elementary school classmates for their appearance, or because one of their parents comes from a poorer nation. Or they are told they smell.

The bigger problem, however, is that they the young ones aren’t learning to speak Korean properly, perhaps because their mothers aren’t Korean. One kid, a 19-month-old boy born to a Korean father and Vietnamese mother who came to Korea two years ago, still can’t say eomma (“mother”) properly, and instead tells his mom what he wants by hitting her, throwing things at her or spitting. According to the whatever the Health and Welfare Ministry is calling itself nowadays, the percentage of multicultural kids whose speech development is six months later than normal or more climbs from 18.6% at age two to 67.2% at age six. 18% of six-year-old multicultural kids have speech impediments.

Then there’s discrimination due to culture and history. One 14-year-old girl in Seoul born to a Japanese mother said her school friends abuse her each time Dokdo comes up in the news, yelling at her, “Your mom’s a Jap, isn’t she? Go back to your country. Don’t hang around here.”

The director of the Multicultural Family Support Center of whatever the Women and Family Ministry is calling themselves nowadays said that the number of multicultural families would increase in the future, and if things continue as they are now, it’s very possible it will lead to social tensions.

Some think Korea’s inflexible social atmosphere must change. One six-year-old boy born to a Mongolian mother was ostracized by his kindergarten friends because he grew his hair down to his shoulders in accordance with Mongolian tradition. Some point out it’s problematic that Koreans consider it natural that Koreans living overseas keep their traditions, but they frown on foreigners doing the same in Korea. The director of some other multicultural family education center in Seoul said in many cases, the first teachers to deal with children of multicultural families cannot understand them, and that multicultural understanding should be included in the teacher certification test.

The Chosun also warns that crime by multicultural teens is also becoming a social issue. In March, a 17-year-old boy in Gwangjin-gu with a Russian mother was arrested on charges of lighting three fires, including one in a parking lot that burnt the outside of a row house. It turned out he’d been teased and ostracized at school due to his appearance.

  • bballi bballi Paradise

    So a 19 month old boy throwing things, spitting and hitting his mother is strange? Perhaps the reporter should have a child or two and then get back to us…
    Don’t children, when raised in a bilingual or multilingual household have trouble with language initially? I think they’ll be fine down the road language wise, and actually have an advantage if they can speak and foreign language.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    My wife is Korean, so my kids speak perfect Korean. My son’s english is just starting to get pretty good too, but there was never any pressure on him because of bad English. Kids whose moms are not Korean surely must have it rough when it comes to the language aspects.

  • thankswww

    “….and instead tells his mom what he wants by hitting her, throwing things at her or spitting’

    He probably learned this from his father, who likely does exactly the same thing.

  • pawikirogii 石鵝

    well thank god you’re there to save korean women from korean men. frikin creeps talking mess all day about korea while they go ape over k tang (teen poon preferred).

  • Todd M

    Most friends of mine with multiracial children of school age have mostly positive stories of their children’s school life, but they are caucasian-Korean. From what I’ve read or heard, children with darker skin or of parents from less developed countries often have less than positive experiences. But of course, not all. Interestingly, the Korea Times published a feel good story on Hwang Min-woo, “Little Psy,” titled “I’ll be a singer more famous than Michael Jackson” a few days earlier. A cool multicultural kid with lots of confidence who gets the rockstar treatment from his peers.

    As for Korean children who discriminate against multi-cultural kids, it’s important to consider their age. It’s hard to blame the six year old kindergarten students above for not possessing the intellectual capacity to empathize with their Mongolian classmate.

    Having Korean elementary teachers learn about multicultural understanding as part of their teaching certificate would be a positive step (assuming muticulturalism is an irreversable trend), since teachers could help young students develop empathy through training. Unfortunately, teachers have far less ability to affect a positive behavioral change in kids who lack empathetic understanding than some people might wish, especially when the children come from families that do not properly teach empathy or other positive values. Whether social tension develops will depend more on how the parents decide to raise their children than on how teachers teach the students.

    I also wonder if an educational system that forces children to spend too much time with their peers and not enough time with their elders – parents, grandparents, aunts, or uncles – contributes to a lack of empathy and tolerance towards others, be they mutlicultural or Korean.

  • Seth Gecko

    Thankswww, thanks for the laugh!

  • brier

    I wouldn’t like for Jr to be teased about looking different, but at so far he has been treated well. I do think that it’s up to me, as his parent to make sure he fits into Korean society as well as possible. Hence at the parent/teacher meeting for his kindergarten, I asked questions about his language ability and how he interacts with his classmates, and the teacher said he is doing fine, outside of a little shyness with kids he doesn’t know well. I would just like his teachers and classmates to respect that he is trying and doing his best to integrate.

  • Liz

    Stuff I learn from Robert’s blog:

    #568. Korea is the Nazi Germany of the East.

  • iwshim

    “The director of the Multicultural Family Support Center of whatever the Women and Family Ministry’

    these guys are idiots.

  • playerofwebworld

    @Todd M

    I don’t get why Koreans have a preference to breed with Caucasian’s aside from the future plastic surgery savings they’ll have for their kids.
    From my experience half Caucasian and half Koreans tend to be the most confused since there’s much more culture clash and polarity whereas other East, South & South East Asians and possibly middle eastern and Latin cultures have more parallels.

    The answer probably lies in Benchmarking

    Korea’s culture and history has created a perfect storm scenario for a constant state of competition and one-upmanship. Korean’s are inclined to compete and compare by benchmarking everything, including their own extended families, friends, neighbors, coworkers, etc… When it comes to societal success Koreans have decided to benchmark romanticized Caucasian cultures, that’s why Korean status markers closely mirror European luxury. Hence if there are interracial couples and kids, then White kids have preferential treatment because their parent’s represent a higher cultural and racial benchmark.

    Although Korean culture frowns upon interracial marriage, if it’s going to happen, then Koreans minimize social stigma by marrying into a culture they considered to higher than their own: German, French, Italian, American, etc…

    Ironically, the only Caucasian/Korean interracial families that I see last is when one spouse submerges his or herself in thee other spouse’s culture. And this tends to be the Caucasian person, so the white culture that was supposed to superior to their own has acquiesced to them.

    These reborn White Koreans are a fascinating and peculiar bunch, but that’s whole another story (i.e. Robert Holley).

  • Arghaeri

    well thank god you’re there to save korean women from korean men.

    So Pawi, which part of multicultural family do you not understand?

  • SalarymaninSeoul


    what a load of trash. Benchmark thi: youre a moron.

    Ive been married 10 years, and I have not “submerged” myself into the Korean culture. The whole argument hinges on an assumption that 2 people get married with the express purpose of breeding kids to one-up their neighbors. Wrong on several counts:

    1. Who are the Korean spouses supposed to be benchmarking? There are not many real life examples to benchmark from. Maybe its from TV? I do not see many positie, or negative mind you, examples of mixed kids on TV aside from some ads and an occassional documentary. Hardly enough to benchmark from.

    2. as I said you are assuming people get married with the express purpose to produce kids one-up whomever they have benchmarked. But this is not the reason most people get married.

    3. Koreans do not have any such preference. A small minority of Koreans marries and has kids with foreigners. A very small minority. These are also people who are probably less attached to their culture and hence less likely to insist their spouse “submerge” him or herself in it.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    The marriages that last are the ones where people do no insist on it being theior culture over their spouse’s. Where people have less attachment to their culture and are more willing to be flexible about it.

    And just what is caucasian culture, anyway?

  • MrMao

    So honkies are all pedophiles eh, Pawi? Yawn. Get a new thing to harp on about, don’t make me cite the hundreds of Koreans arrested over the past few years for doing disgusting things to children. Project much? If Koreans are such noble people, why does every major train station have a red-light district full of teenage runaways, mamasans, fat pimps smoking Deesuh Dambae and restraurants and shops to feed the fat-ass ajushis who are down there all day long banging that teen Korean pXXn tang before they go back to their cheating wives and their 1.25 children in the suburbs? Until your country’s police force start enforcing child protection laws and stop taking bribes from the pimps who run the love hotels and massage parlours, you have no right to criticize anyone. The most homophobic people turn out to be gay, so the most self-righteous about kiddy fiddling generally turn out to be kiddy fiddlers themselves.

  • Robert Koehler

    Until your country’s police force start enforcing child protection laws and stop taking bribes from the pimps who run the love hotels and massage parlours, you have no right to criticize anyone.

    I believe Pawi’s country is the State of New Jersey. Can’t say I know much about the Garden State’s enforcement of child protection laws, though.

  • hamel

    Koehler, you know as well as I do that Pawi has enough stature that he can comfortably straddle the Pacific, with a foot in both the ROK and NJ. And he ain’t afraid to show it, either….

  • MrMao

    Could it be that…a white guy knows more about Korea than him?

  • Pingback: Korean Gender Reader, November 17-23 | The Grand Narrative()

  • playerofwebworld


    I obviously struck an insecurity nerve.

    I believe you when you say you have not submerged yourself in Korean culture because you’re clearly a clueless foreigner married to a Korean.

    – “The whole argument hinges on an assumption that 2 people get married with the express purpose of breeding kids to one-up their neighbors. Wrong on several counts”

    First, you’re twisting my words a little bit, I did not mean it’s the only, express or sole reason, but it is one of the main reasons.

    Here’s another way of saying this- Koreans get married to have children who will transcend their current social and peer class level – Yes! How do they validate that? By being better than their neighbors!

    So yes, Koreans want that, obviously not you – because you’re not a Korean!

    Sit down with your wife, tell her to put on her traditional middle class conservative Korean thinking capon because she obviously took it off when she decided to marry a foreigner. I’m sure if her imagination is powerful enough she’ll agree. If she can’t, then congratulations you married an anomaly

  • slim