Thursday, January 19, 2012

Multiculturalisim in Korea

One of the popular movies now running in Seoul is Wandeugi, English title Punch. The desk column of the Catholic Times discusses the plot and moral of the movie. It is about the life of a multicultural Korean family. The mother, a Filipina married to a Korean who is hunchbacked, deserted the family after Wandeugi, the name of the boy, was weaned. He didn't learn about his mother's existence until much later in life. His homeroom teacher, whom he disliked intensely, was a neighbor who was always interfering in his life. This all changed when he learned that the teacher was helping migrant workers and brought about the warm reunion with his mother.

The number of foreigners in Korea is now over 1 million 200 thousand.  Of this number, we have 250,000 families, with 150,000 school-age children. The movie helps us to see these families with a new perspective.  Not only seeing them with a more sympathetic eye but as members of the same Korean society.

Because of the large number of foreigners, all are familiar with the hardships they face. 1.7 percent of the population are non-Korean. This is much less than other countries but something quite different from the old hermit kingdom understanding of Korea. The columnist asks the readers how far have we come to truly understanding the plight of the multicultural families within the Korean culture?

Last year the government's human rights committee had a questionnaire for 186 multicultural students, ages 8 to 26, in 22 schools and 16 organizations, and found that the majority did  suffer violence and discrimination.

The reason? Their pronunciation was strange, they came from a poor country, their skin color was different, and as a consequence they were looked down upon and were even  told to leave the country. 27 percent indicated that they wanted to quit school because of the prejudice.  In about 7 to 8 years one out of four will be a multicultural in the country-side. Growing up with serious  scars that have not been healed will not make it easy to adapt and live harmoniously with their neighbors.  Those who have studied the problem see this as a serious future problem unless solved.

She quotes a priest who mentions the traditional kindness shown in our society. This same kindness, she says, must be shown to the multicultural families who live  with us. She mentions an example in a religious school where the multicultural girls were asked to prepare food according to their own cultural ways. A good example of what can be done in the school.

We as Christians should be a  good example of how to treat those from cultural backgrounds different than our own. We know what our Lord said about being a stranger and being warmly welcomed.

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