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Migrant workers deserve more bennies

Marriage migrants (such a romantic term) make up 10 percent of the immigrant population here, but are getting all the love (so to speak) in terms of benefits and programs from the Korean government.

So says Will Kymlicka, professor and Canada Research Chair at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada, in an interview with the Korea Times.

“I don’t think it’s fair and also don’t think it’s feasible to think of foreign workers as just disposable labor you can bring in for a few years and get rid of. More systematic multiculturalism has to think about the ways in which foreign workers will be and should be allowed to become members of Korean society, not just foreign brides.”

He was in Seoul with 50 experts from 20 countries for the Korea Foundation Global Seminar on Challenges of a Multicultural World and Global Approaches to Coexistence. (KFGSCMWGAC, if you prefer acronyms.)

Migrant workers punching in at factories around the country account for 1/3 of the migrant population of 1.5 million, but policy has focused more on those marrying in to the country, say experts.

Kymlicka (please, resist) suggests that the government should start with some public education programs or risk running into a “they’re stealing our jobs!” situation like that in Europe and North America.

“Any movement Korea makes has to be accompanied by explaining to average citizens why these changes are necessary, why they are good for everybody, why they are legitimate claims immigrants have.”

About the author: Founder/CEO of Meme Communications Korea – www.memecommunications.com

  • Anonymous_Joe

    I’m resisting…
    I…
    am…
    resisting….

  • hamel

    Sigh…
    Won’t take long on this blog.

  • Marty Pants

    Korea now has one of the most liberal immigration laws in Asia.

    For instance, in Singapore, it is forbidden for foreign workers to get married to Singaporeans while they stay and work. If they are caught, they are deported and permanently banned from reentering Singapore. The penalty for illegal workers are even more harsh. If they’re caught, they are fined thousands of dollars and minimum jail time is 6 months. Another example is Taiwan, where the average pay of foreign workers in Taiwan are less than half of South Korea’s average pay given to foreign workers in Korea. If you compare to rest of Asia, the policies and benefits given to foreign workers in Korea is far better, so I’m not sure why Korea is always made into the image of the most evil racist country in the press here and at abroad.

  • PeterDownUnder

    I believe South Korea’s model for immigration should be the UAE. Yes, foreign workers should be disposable labour you can bring in then get rid of.

    The social costs of integrating such people outweight any economic benefits. Look at Japan’s social cohesion post-tsunami and compare that to the riots in London and Paris. Yes rising labour costs are sorta bad for the economy but importing third world poverty to offset it isn’t the right idea.

    And rising labour costs should drive and fuel innovation rather than cling on to cheap labour. It is to my knowledge Hyundai’s advantage over Toyota is in their investment in automation rather than workers due to Korea’s militant union workers, so whereas Hyundai was prepared for rising labour costs Toyota was not and had to keep shifting production to find cheap human capital.

    You can look at London, Paris and even Sydney and we should obviously be able to agree that these are not the models for Seoul.

  • hamel

    I believe South Korea’s model for immigration should be the UAE. Yes, foreign workers should be disposable labour you can bring in then get rid of.

    That would work perfectly if only humans could be more like robots, and less like…ahem…people, who do stuff like…oh I don’t know…fall in love, have children, feel a need for companionship, make friendships, accrue wealth and social capital, have accidents, etc.

    It would even work great if humans could put aside a period of years in which they just focus on work – say 5 or 10 – and they could come to Korea just to work, and Koreans could slap them in leg irons and then take them straight to the airport on their last day of work and send them home.

  • http://www.chinasmack.com/tag/shocking Jakgani

    More systematic multiculturalism has to think about the ways in which foreign workers will be and should be allowed to become members of Korean society, not just foreign brides.”

    He is talking about “us” also – as the United Nations’ definition of “migrant worker” includes any people working outside of their home country.

  • http://www.chinasmack.com/tag/shocking Jakgani

    ( The “United Nations Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families” defines migrant worker as follows:

    “ The term “migrant worker” refers to a person who is engaged or has been engaged in a remunerated activity in a State of which he or she is not a national. )

  • http://koreanlanguagenotes.blogspot.com/ gbevers

    “I am a migrant worker. I am a stone. I go where I am kicked.”

  • cm

    Three Vietnamese jumped off a Taiwanese ship, off of the shores of Busan yesterday, as they tried to swim ashore. One was rescued, but the two didn’t survive.

  • H.Schmidt

    There are too many mail order brides in South Korea. It’s getting disgusting and the amount of South Korean tax money being spent for welfare for mail order brides is ridiculous.

    South Korea needs to ban the mail order bride industry now.

  • http://koreanlanguagenotes.blogspot.com/ gbevers

    H.Schmidt wrote (#9):

    South Korea needs to ban the mail order bride industry now.

    It won’t work. People will just switch over to ordering them online.

  • hamel

    H. Schmidt – don’t pull any punches, please. Why don’t you tell us what you really think?

  • hamel

    Bevers: very good (for a change)

  • brier

    Immigration policies here are pretty much closed unless you marry a local, or have a huge wad of cash replenished to your wallet regularly. These policies are smart and I generally agree it’s in Korea’s interest to limit immigration, but when people who have worked here for 10, nay 15 years paying their own way as law abiding residents it’s a hard sell to keep saying we don’t want you on an F-visa.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    #4 hamel:

    … foreign workers should be disposable labour you can bring in then get rid of.

    That would work perfectly if only humans could be more like robots, and less like…ahem…people, who do stuff like…oh I don’t know…fall in love, have children, feel a need for companionship, make friendships, accrue wealth and social capital, have accidents, etc.

    That’s a good point that. Also, don’t forget the other side. If foreign workers should be disposable labor, then don’t be surprised when the users treat them like they are disposable.

  • hamel

    That’s a good point that. Also, don’t forget the other side. If foreign workers should be disposable labor, then don’t be surprised when the users treat them like they are disposable.

    Well exactly. I remember just a couple of years in ago in Korea where a foreign worker (from Thailand?) got sick because of the work/work conditions (fume inhalation?) and was just sent back to Thailand without receiving proper medical care. Eventually there was an outcry and said person was magnanimously brought back to Korea for treatment, but still…

  • Marty Pants

    Korea now has one of the most liberal immigration laws in Asia.

    For instance, in Singapore, it is forbidden for foreign workers to get married to Singaporeans while they stay and work. If they are caught, they are deported and permanently banned from reentering Singapore. The penalty for illegal workers are even more harsh. If they’re caught, they are fined thousands of dollars and minimum jail time is 6 months. Another example is Taiwan, where the average pay of foreign workers in Taiwan are less than half of South Korea’s average pay given to foreign workers in Korea. If you compare to rest of Asia, the policies and benefits given to foreign workers in Korea is far better, so I’m not sure why Korea is always made into the image of the most evil racist country in the press here and at abroad.