The JoongAng Ilbo reports that Seoul had got homeless foreigners, and figuring out what to do with them is a bit of a headache.
According to the piece, there are about 60 homeless foreigners in four shelters in Seoul, and probably more roaming the streets.
Fun fact: Foreigners are apparently not allowed to make use of government-run homeless shelters:
“When government-run homeless shelters take in Koreans, they receive government subsidies, but there is no money earmarked for foreigners,” said Kim Hae-sung, director of the Global Village of Love-Sharing.
An official from the Ministry of Health and Welfare admitted that foreigners were excluded from standard homeless shelters. “We have enough trouble supporting the Koreans,” he said. “It is hard to pay attention to the foreigners.”
Somebody clearly didn’t get Joseph Carens’ memo.
The Justice Ministry claims that it can’t simply deport homeless foreigners if they’ve got legal visas. I’m not sure why that is, and it seems to me it would benefit everyone involved if the ministry just rounded these folk up and put them on a plane back home so that their families, friends and—more to the point—taxpaying countrymen can take care of them.
Well, anyway, we are warned if Korea doesn’t do something about this, it could become yet another social issue:
“If we do nothing about homeless foreigners now, they can grow into a new social problem,” said Kim Young-ran, professor of social psychology at the Sookmyung Women’s University. “We need to create a system to protect them at the existing welfare centers for the homeless.”
This story does bring back memories, though. I remember when I first moved up to Seoul there was this homeless Westerner who used to live outside on the hill overlooking Noksapyeong Station. Used to wear a hanbok top. Lovely gent, I recall, but clearly a bit down on his luck. I believe he has since returned to his homeland.
Thailand reportedly has a foreigner—well, Westerner—homeless problem, too, albeit much worse. Alcohol and bad business decisions (often linked to bad romantic decisions) seem to play a major part in the Thailand case.