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Catholics call for migrant law change

Foreigners marginalised in society because of existing laws, workshop hears

Stephen Hong, Seoul

March 28, 2011

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A workshop on multiculturalism has recommended that the government should change its policy of making immigrants assimilate Korean culture. The Institute for Multicultural Studies of the Catholic University of Daegu held a workshop on multiculturalism at the university on March 25. Father Timothy Kim Myoung-hyoun, director of the institute, noted in his presentation that the current laws regarding foreigners are based on 'cultural assimilation,' not 'cultural pluralism.' Father Kim argued those laws have been forcing immigrants to assimilate into Korean culture, abandoning their own cultures. He warned such a cultural assimilation policy would potentially lead to protests from immigrants, the minority that is compelled to make the change, and suggested it should be replaced with a policy that recognizes and tolerates other cultures. He asked the government to prepare programs and policies that help immigrants to strengthen their capabilities by themselves. According to government figures, Korea now has over 1.2 million immigrants and one of every ten marriages in South Korea involves a foreign spouse. Father Kim noted because of the influx of migrant people, a new marginalized class has been formed. Some 60 percent of married migrant women live below the poverty line, he said. Another presenter during the workshop, Scalabrini Father Graziano Battistella, director of the Scalabrini Migration Center in Manila, introduced his center's history, orientation and activities. KO13768.1647

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