Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A New Way of Being Korean

Korea has many foreign workers living and working here. For the ordinary citizen, this was a change from what they were accustomed to. The homogeneity and comfort level of their cultural sameness was breaking down and required a new way of being Korean.

Becoming a Korean citizen is not an easy process for those who desire it, unless the immigrant marries a Korean. Because of the country's need for workers, many have come here to do the work ordinary citizens  avoid: the difficult, dirty and dangerous work. Most come as temporary workers and will have to leave unless marriage changes their status.

Korea, once known as the hermit kingdom, was proud of its traditions and culture. Christianity probably helped to break down the isolationism of the past despite the persecution. Isolationism and the homogeneity of the culture were trademarks of Korea, one of most homogeneous countries in the world, with one language and culture.

In recent years, there has been a change to a multicultural society but for the average citizen the past is not easily discarded, and discrimination and prejudice is not uncommon.

The Catholic Times, with the help of the Buddhist  Research Center, has made a study of the different groups in society and their degree of friendliness to the immigrants. Catholics showed the most favorable response of the four groups studied, the others being Protestants, Buddhists and non-believers. The article shows us some of the details of the study. 

Are you able to be a friend to a foreign worker? was one of the questions asked, and 45.3 percent of the Catholics answered yes; Protestants 39.4 percent; Buddhists 38.0 percent; and non-believers 36.8 percent.

Responding "Yes" to whether they preferred not to be close to foreign workers, non-believers 5.6 percent; Buddhists 5.5 percent; Protestants 3.5 percent; Catholics 1.2 percent. The article gives the reason for the more positive Catholic showing to the movement for life that stresses the dignity of all life, and the love and respect for all persons.

The articles mentions that the Protestants have shown the greatest concern for the foreign workers, with 600 facilities dedicated to helping the foreign worker. The  Seoul diocese has 146 centers for the care of foreign workers. And society as a whole is taking more interest in the care of those who are trying to adapt to a Korean way of life. The mass media is also doing their part to help break down the strangeness of encountering so many foreigners in a land that only recently saw very few of them.

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