Thursday, October 30, 2014

Migrant Women In Korea

With Bible magazine has an article on women who have come to Korea as immigrants and are married to Koreans. The writer recalls her knapsack trip to Europe with her best friend some twenty years ago. They visited the paternal aunt of her friend in Germany. The aunt was one of the Korean nurses that went to Germany in 1970 and remained, marrying a German. She was  a migrant woman living in Germany. The visit was not to a  big city but a small village in the country and she remembers the stares of the villagers seeing these strange faces from Asia.

The uncle, the German husband, brought them around and introduced them to a grocery store run by an immigrant from Turkey. The Germans needed workers so they welcomed those from Turkey, but as the numbers grew, they were taking away work from the Germans and they were a drain on the welfare programs of the country. They also did not mix in with the Germans  but remained attached  to their own cultural ways; grocery stores with Turkish products began to appear everywhere, which caused a lot of comment. Germany had the same problems that Korea is facing today.

Today back in Korea when she hears talk about the migrants in Korea she remember her days back in Germany some 20 years before. Eight percent of the marriages in Korea in 2013 were with foreigners.  70.5 percent of those marrying were Korean men marrying foreign women. In 2005 it was 13.5 percent and has gradually decreased. Today it is one out of ten and usually foreign  women are the largest number.The government is helping these women  in many different ways to make them feel at home in Korea. This does not solve, however, all their problems.

In 2009 the educational level of the women migrants: 42.3 percent were high school graduates, 27.7 percent middle school, and 20.6 percent college graduates and higher. With the men we have 40.1 percent with  college or better, 34.5 percent  with high school, and 18.9 percent middle school. The educational level of the men was much higher than the women.

Different from the ordinary immigrants those who have come to Korea for marriage are relating with those from the mother country; outside of the family in which they married the contacts are few. This does not change, she says, with the length of time they are in the country.There is less prejudice shown to the foreign workers and the Chinese compatriots living in Korea. A large number of the women have been bought which adds to the problem and the reason they are often mistreated in the families.

There are wonderful stories about women who have made the transition successfully but most of the talk is about women who have been bought and find it difficult to adapt to the thinking and culture, and  abused by their husbands.She confesses that if she were one of them she would not be able to remain in such a union.

Last year a summer study was made by the Buddhist Research Center on the  place of Buddhism in a multicultural society. Catholic of the three religions studied: Buddhists, Protestants and Catholics, the Catholics had the most favorable relationship with the foreign workers. Would you be able to be a friend with a foreigner?  Catholics answered 45.3 with a yes, Protestants 39.4 and Buddhist 38.6. I don't want to get close to them: Catholic 1.2 percent, Protestant 3.6 percent and Buddhist 5.5 percent.  She says we should not look at this with pride for when she thinks how many Catholics would be willing to be friends to a migrant she feels depressed. 

She concludes the article with a reflection that Our Blessed Mother was a migrant in  a foreign land. She knew no one and she compares the situation of Mary with the women who are married to Korean men. These foreign women are hoping for a new life and need the courage to bring it about. Let us all figure out, she asks, what we can do to make contact with these woman, and help them to make the transition to Korean life.