South korean journalist symposium



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April 1, 2009

SOUTH KOREAN JOURNALIST SYMPOSIUM

Worldwide recession exposes cracks in South Korean society

By TAKASHI KITAZUME

The continuing decline of the middle class and increase in the ranks of the poor threaten to exacerbate South Korea's demographic woes, Kim Dong Seop, an editorial writer for the Chonsun Ilbo daily, told the March 13 symposium.

Compared with the large-scale unemployment caused by the 1997 currency crisis, South Korean people appear to be relatively calm in response to the current global shock, Kim said. Still, the decline of the middle class that began in the previous crisis is continuing, with the share of middle-income earners as defined by the government in the entire population falling from 68.5 percent in 1996 to 58 percent in 2007, he pointed out.

And the recession triggered by the current crisis has pushed many middle-class people into the ranks of the poor, including those in their 40s and 50s who have lost jobs, as well as small and medium-size business owners left out of social security benefits, he added.

Big companies also responded to the crisis by cutting back on new recruits, with only about 100,000 of the 560,000 fresh university graduates this year estimated to have secured employment, Kim noted, warning that social discontent could intensify among these jobless youths.

Such impacts of the recession could further worsen South Korea's falling birthrate, which is even lower than in Japan at 1.19 as of last year, Kim said. A government estimate shows that the figure could fall even lower to nearly 1 this year, if annual GDP growth falls below 1 percent, he added.

During an economic crisis, an increasing number of people refrain from marrying if they cannot find jobs and couples don't have children because they cannot bear the financial cost of child-rearing, or choose to get a divorce as they cannot sustain their households, Kim said.

And such impacts could linger for two to three years — or even longer, he said. After the 1997 crisis, South Korea's divorce rate continued to increase for six years, he added.

Oh Byung Sang

With the falling birthrate, the population is aging rapidly — maybe even more so than in Japan, he said. A United Nations estimate shows the median age for all South Koreans in 2050 will be 57.6 years, compared with 54.9 in Japan, he noted.

The South Korean government has established an emergency, 24-hour hot line to help the new ranks of the poor, and has introduced a program to offer financial support for up to six months to those not covered by unemployment insurance benefits, including self-employed people who went bankrupt or nonregular workers who lost their jobs, Kim said.

To alleviate the problem of jobless university graduates, public institutions and some companies are utilizing internship programs as a stopgap measure to provide work opportunities for those youths who cannot find a full-time job, Kim said. About 20,000 people are currently taking part in such programs, with some companies freezing wage increases or cutting executive pay to cover the cost of using the interns, he added.

Kim noted that the current crisis may add momentum to calls for increasing public welfare spending in South Korea, which today accounts for only about 7 percent of GDP — much lower than the 15 percent in the United States and about 20 percent in European countries.

There are also calls for the government to beef up public education, because expenses on cram schools and other extracurricular lessons for children are a huge burden on typical South Korean households, he added.

Meanwhile, Oh Byung Sang, an editorial writer for the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper, told the symposium that he sees signs of long-term changes in South Korea's political landscape.

In the last session of the South Korean Parliament, President Lee Myung Bak faced strong resistance from not just the opposition but the ruling Grand National Party to his legislative agenda — an indication that the political power that used to be concentrated in the hands of the president has now shifted toward parliament, Oh said.

Oh further noted that former GNP chief Park Geun Hye, who exerted leadership behind the scenes in resolving the deadlock in parliament, has emerged as a strong candidate to be South Korea's next president. The role she played as a mediator to deal with the recent political confusion confirmed her growing clout within the GNP and no other politicians rival her strong leadership, he said.

And if Park — daughter of late President Park Chung Hee — is to become president, South Korean politics, which have swayed widely between left and right with changes in the administration in recent decades, could stabilize somewhere close to the center, Oh noted.

Park is conservative on defense and foreign policy matters but takes more liberal positions on economic, social, women and welfare issues, he pointed out.

Oh said the current political trends may add momentum to calls for partial revision of South Korea's Constitution — possibly as an issue in the next presidential race.

Park is opposed to the introduction of a Cabinet system and says the president's term should be shortened to four years, with the possibility of re-election to a second term, compared with the current five-year term without re-election, Oh said, adding that such an amendment would contribute to giving more power to parliament and increasing political stability.

Oh also said that with North Korea continuing to take belligerent positions toward the rest of the world, reunification is not likely to be an issue that will have a direct impact on South Korean politics for the foreseeable future.

http://world.kbs.co.kr

Top Ten News of 2009

Gov’t Seeks to Address Low Birthrate

Despite the government’s various policies to encourage childbirth, the nation continued to post a low birth rate in 2009.

Though the government established a basic plan on promoting childbirth in 2006 and has been implementing additional policies ever since, the nation’s birth rate has continued to remain static or, in some months, lower than in previous years.

According to a report issued by the Planned Parenthood Federation of Korea on November 18th, the average fertile South Korean woman gives birth to one-point-two children during her reproductive years. The figure is far lower than the world average of two-point-five children and has placed South Korea at the bottom of the list of the some 180 countries surveyed.

The report also forecast that South Korea will see its population decrease from more than 48 million this year to some 44 million by 2050.

If the prediction is correct, the nation will have the world’s 41st largest population, a plunge from its current rank of 26th.

Such figures have sparked concerns that the nation’s low birth rate would reduce the nation’s potential growth, as the economically active population would shrink considerably. Some observers claim that the current birth rate has reached a level that could threaten national security.

In response, the government opened a meeting on November 25th to discuss how best to counter low birth rates. It is also drawing up various measures to encourage childbirth.

http://world.kbs.co.kr

Top Ten News of 2009

No. of Foreign Residents in S.Korea Tops 1 Mln

South Korea is increasingly becoming more multicultural, as the number of foreigners that settle in the nation is growing by the day.

The number of multicultural families is rising fast, mainly in the provinces, with Korean men in farming villages looking abroad to find wives. The number of foreigners who visit South Korea for business, study, or employment is also on the rise.

The government found in a survey that some one-point-one million foreigners were residing in the nation as of May. That’s around two-point-two percent of the nation’s total population.

The number of foreigners that visited the nation also jumped this year to surpass seven million for the first time on November 23rd.

The figure, up 14 percent from the same period last year, is regarded to be a significant achievement reached by the tourism industries, as it was posted amid the global financial crisis and the outbreak of H1N1 influenza.

The Korea Tourism Organization has unveiled plans to attract ten million foreign travelers to the nation on an annual basis by 2012.

http://www.netzeitung.de

26.09.2003

Koreanische Ritual-Caterer boomen im Netz

Seit jeher verbringen koreanische Frauen einen Großteil ihres Lebens in der Küche. Doch seit Kurzem bestellen mehr und mehr Koreanerinnen traditionelle Festspeisen bei Online-Caterern.

Traditionsgemäß ist das Kochen und Vorbereiten der rituellen Familienessen in Korea allein Sache der Frau. Mehrmals im Jahr trifft sich eine koreanische Familie, um in dem Haus des ältesten Sohnes traditionelle Feste und die Todestage ihrer Ahnen mit einer Essenszeremonie zu begehen. Da das in Kombination mit Haushalt, Arbeit und Kindern die Frauen kurzfristig in zeitliche Engpässe führen kann, nutzen gestresste Koreanerinnen immer häufiger einen sogenannten rituellen Caterer im Internet. Seit 1998 verbreitet sich ihr Angebot im Internet stetig, ihr Angebot reicht von fertig vorbereiteten Speisetafeln inklusive Geschirr und Kerzen bis hin zu Schlafplätzen für die Gäste und einen Zeremoniendienst, der im Tempel den Ahnen eine Essensgabe darreicht, falls der Kunde selbst nicht anwesend sein kann.

Hilfe zahlt sich aus

Bei der Ritual-Köchen im Web kann die gestresste Hausfrau die erhebliche Belastung auslagern, den hohen Ansprüchen ihrer Verwandten gerecht zu werden. Ein Service der sich offenbar auszahlt, denn die Umsatzzahlen der Caterer verdoppeln sich jedes Jahr. Im Netz zeigt jedes Unternehmen Fotos von den verschiedenen von ihnen vorbereiteten Menüs. Zunächst hatten viele Frauen große Zweifel, ob ein im Web bestelltes Menü die Ahnen beleidigen würde und fürchteten den Zorn der Verwandtschaft, wenn sich herausstellte, dass das Menü nicht selbstgekocht ist. Schließlich handelt es sich um ein Ritual, bei dem es nicht allein um die Nahrungsaufnahme geht, sondern auch darum, selbst den verstorbenen Ahnen durch gutes Essen eine Ehre zu erweisen.

Wenig Ehr, mehr Zeit

Trotzdem waren die Frauen, zumeist berufstätige Mütter, geschiedene Frauen oder Witwen von der Qualität des Services angenehm überrascht und die Kosten übersteigen die eines selbstvorbereiteten Menüs nicht wesentlich. Während ein selbstgemachtes traditionelles Menü für 10 Personen die Familie umgerechnet 110 Euro kostet, die Arbeitsstunden der Frau in der Küche nicht mitgerechnet, ist man bei einer gecaterten Malzeit mit 150 Euro dabei.

http://www.latimes.com

A shelter for South Korea's foreign brides

A former motel is now a home for women from developing countries who were kicked out or abused by their husbands. Many weren't allowed to learn Korean, and face hardships in their adopted land.

By Ju-min Park, January 14, 2010

Cao Thi Nguyen and her baby were marooned in a strange land without family or options. The young woman, who moved here from Vietnam two years ago to marry a South Korean man, had been kicked out of her home after a fight with her husband's family. Unable to speak Korean, the slight 29-year-old wandered the streets of Seoul for months until she found a refuge designed to help the growing number of foreign brides in the country -- nearly half of whom report suffering domestic abuse.

Myeongrak Village, a motel-turned-shelter with a capacity for 14 residents, serves women exclusively, providing food and medical costs and a chance at self-reliance.

In South Korea, which in recent years has imported more than 100,000 foreign brides from such nations as China, Mongolia, Vietnam and the Philippines, many newcomers struggle to adapt to their adopted homeland and its close-knit culture. Some are abandoned by their new families.

"Many of those living here were forced out without any preparation by their irresponsible families," said Park Jee-hee, a social worker at Myeongrak Village.

Nguyen is typical of residents at the shelter.

"My husband and his family did not allow me to learn Korean because then I could go out and hang out with friends," said Nguyen, who is seeking a divorce.

At Myeongrak Village, residents have their own rooms and share a common kitchen on each floor. But more important, they enjoy the support of their peers, who share their grief, emotional scars and hope.

Jung Mi-ryong, a 15-year-old Chinese girl who lives at the shelter with her mother, said life was hard with her new family.

"My Korean stepfather was paranoid about everything my mother did," she said. Her mother is now divorced.

The nonprofit center, which opened six months ago, is run by the South Korean Buddhist group Cheontae Order, which says the need for such services is clear.

In South Korea, men now outnumber women, who often postpone marriage to pursue careers. The trend is most pronounced in less prosperous rural towns that have seen women leave for big cities. The women have been replaced as marriage partners by brides from developing countries.

Many inter-cultural couples tie the knot within two or three days. The quick matches sometimes end in tears -- and worse.

According to a report from the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs, nearly half of the foreign brides in South Korea say they have experienced domestic violence.

Activists say they face a language disability that worsens conflicts with their Korean husbands and families. Traditional views in many conservative families also lead to breakups.

"I heard my mother-in-law saying that my child was born from a rented belly, which is mine," said a 32-year-old woman surnamed Kim who declined to give her full name. "It was a shock."

Despite their problems here, many divorced foreign brides say they want to stay in South Korea to seek their fortunes. Some are studying Korean and plan to become citizens.

But women living in Myeongrak Village say their experiences at the shelter are crucial to their success. The three-story shelter feels more like a college dormitory where residents cook together and make friends.

"Now it is tough financially, but not emotionally," Kim said. "I feel safe."

Nguyen recently failed to show up for a job interview: She said she panicked at seeing incomprehensible Korean-language signs at a subway station.

Nguyen, holding her 19-month-old son in her arms, knows the clock is ticking. Because of a growing need for space, shelter residents are required to move out after one year. Nguyen has lived there since the shelter's opening.

She is determined to become independent. She wants to enroll her son in day school and land a job.

For now, though, she's safe and satisfied.

"I'm happy to be away from my husband," she said. "I'm with my son. And I have new friends."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com

Instead-Man Service A Growing Industry In South Korea

First Posted: 08- 3-09

By Jiyeon Lee,

SEOUL -- Inching toward his mid-30s and with an ill father, Mr. Kim had a problem. He had no girlfriend and no intention of getting married, but his parents insisted he find someone and settle down. As his father's condition became worse, so did the pressure from his parents about marriage, until one day Mr. Kim found himself letting a little lie pop out: He told his parents he was seeing someone.

But the harmless lie, which was supposed to give Kim temporary freedom, suddenly turned against him. He somehow ended up promising his parents he would visit them with his fiancee. "I tried to find someone to help me out. It had happened so suddenly, and the date was already set," Kim said. So as most South Koreans do when in need, he turned to the internet, and it did not fail him.

Kim, who declined to give his full name for fear of his parents finding out, found a company that offered to do anything for him. With the help of that company, Kim will soon head down to the countryside with a "nice woman" in her early or mid-30s posing as his potential bride.

Companies like the one Kim stumbled across represent one of the hottest trends in the Korean service sector these days: the instead-man service. Companies with a pool of instead-men and women offer to do odd jobs that range anywhere from food delivery to killing cockroaches. Customers pay a fee that starts at about $4 and can reach into the hundreds depending on the service.

The business emerged in one of Seoul's more affluent districts with companies that focused mainly on delivering food for women in their 20s and 30s who couldn't bother to leave their apartments.

But as more people acquired larger disposable incomes, and with the shift from a community-oriented society to an individualistic one, more people are choosing to pay for help instead of asking others for favors. Instead-man companies now provide almost unlimited services and customers span all ages and genders.

"People are saying these days, 'I want to take care of the important things in life, and give myself rest when I have free time,'" said Yoon Ju-yeol, the head of Anyman, one of the top ranking instead-man companies and provider of Kim's paid fiancee. Yoon explains that South Koreans are now at a stage where they treasure themselves much more than they did in the past and see paying for their own convenience as a self-investment.

Anyman, which used to be a delivery service, officially reopened as an instead-man company in May and has seen a near tenfold growth in cases over three months. In July alone, the company received more than 3,250 calls from customers who usually turn into regulars. The growth is an indicator that yet another odd service catering to the needs of South Koreans, who generally like being waited on and served, is just about to bloom.

Already there were plenty of motorcycles delivering all sorts of items usually guaranteed to arrive at their destination in less than an hour. And there are more than enough "substitute drivers" offering drunk car owners rides back home in their own vehicles 24 hours a day. But Yoon thinks these services are not enough to tend to the needs of the so-called "can't-botherists," who, of course, are those suffering from "can't-botherism" (both are popular words in Korea). Hence, the arrival of the instead-man.

"This is a market that the consumers have created, and there are almost no limits to what products can be marketed and those who can supply it," Yoon said.

He has at least 200 professional instead-men and numerous part-timers on stand-by all across the country, allowing his company to cover a vast area and still operate efficiently. Anyman, the name indicating that its instead-men will do anything, has seen an unimaginable variety of service requests from its clients.

Asking for food delivery from a distant place that sometimes entails double the price of the food itself as a service fee is nothing unusual. Some customers in the countryside have even asked that cosmetics or purchases of famous food from Seoul be packed onto express buses and trains for pickup.

University students have asked instead-men to sit in their classes for them and even elementary school students have called in to have art supplies delivered to their school gates.

Instead-men say that some of the requests can be quite touching as well. Gruff husbands call in to have porridge and medicine sent over to their sick wives, and one woman even asked if an older instead-man could accompany her elderly father on a fishing trip for two days.

But the work is, of course, not always pleasant. "I was once asked to fish out a dead decomposing cat from between two brick walls, and I politely declined," said professional instead-man Cho Sang-hee.Cho rushed out in mid-conversation to the nearest cosmetics store, after getting a call asking that four packs of false eyelashes be delivered to a beauty salon. "I guess you could say I've bought almost every single item a woman would at a drug store," Cho said, before speeding off on his motorcycle.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com

Brawl Breaks Out In South Korean Parliament

JAE-SOON CHANG, 07/22/2009

SEOUL, South Korea — Hundreds of competing lawmakers screamed and wrestled in South Korea's parliament Wednesday as a rivalry over contentious media reform bills descended into a brawl that sent at least one to a hospital.

Lawmakers from the ruling Grand National Party occupied the speaker's podium in a bid to quickly pass the bills aimed at easing restrictions on ownership of television networks. Opposition parties responded by stacking up furniture to block ruling party members from entering the main hall of the National Assembly.

The parliament plunged into chaos, as lawmakers scuffled and shouted abuse at each other. Women lawmakers from the rival parties joined in the melee, grabbing each other by the neck and trying to bring opponents to the floor.

YTN television network reported some were injured. One woman lawmaker was seen lying on a blue mattress with nurses checking her blood pressure. The lawmaker was later taken to a hospital, YTN said.

The scenes were not unusual to South Korea's confrontational and melodramatic politics, where rival parties sometimes resort to violence to get their way. Last year, opposition lawmakers used sledgehammers to pound their way into a parliamentary committee room to block the ruling party from introducing a bill to ratify a free trade pact with the United States.

The opposition strongly opposes the proposed media reforms that would ease restrictions on large businesses and newspapers owning stakes in major broadcasting stations. They claim the move is a ploy by the government of President Lee Myung-bak to get more sympathetic media coverage by allowing large conservative newspapers to get into the broadcasting business.

Despite the opposition lawmakers' attempt to blockade the National Assembly, ruling party legislators managed to get into the hall and rammed through the bills amid angry shouts from their opponents. Some opposition lawmakers unsuccessfully tried to jump on to the speaker's podium. They were dragged away by ruling party lawmakers.

As the vice parliamentary speaker announced the passage of one bill, parliamentary security guards rushed to cover him for fears that opposition lawmakers might hurl something, which has happened in the past. The deputy speaker is affiliated with the ruling party.

The main opposition Democratic Party said the voting had procedural problems and it will seek a court injunction to invalidate the move.

"The National Assembly, the hall of the people's will, was brutally trampled and infringed upon today," the party said in a statement.

The ruling Grand National Party rejected the claim and accused the opposition of using violence and of being insincere during negotiations to find a compromise on the bills.

"This kind of tragedy should never be repeated again," it said in a statement.

The Grand National Party controls the 294-member unicameral National Assembly with 169 seats. The main opposition Democratic Party has 84 seats.

http://www.washingtonpost.com

Opening Their Wallets, Emptying Their Savings

Economists Worry as South Koreans Shift From Thrift to Extravagance



In South Korea, shopping "is a kind of competition," said Sabina Vaughan, who travels to Seoul every summer and sees how her cousins spend. (By Jean Chung -- Bloomberg News)

A consumer shops for high-end computer gear in Seoul. "It is not recognized as a virtue to save, not anymore," investment adviser Lee Sun-uk said. (By Ahn Young-joon -- Associated Press)

By Blaine Harden, July 30, 2009

SEOUL -- In pursuit of middle-class prosperity, South Koreans have looted their household savings like no other people on Earth.

They have collectively binged on private schools and fancy cars, language camps and new apartments, foreign travel and designer shoes.

Americans, the longtime avatars of consumerism gone mad, will save next year at double the rate of South Koreans, according to a report this month from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a group that supports sustainable economic growth in developed countries.

When it comes to buying high-priced, brand-name stuff as if there were no tomorrow, Sabina Vaughan concludes that Americans are relative wimps. "Koreans spend more, way more," said Vaughan, 35, who travels to Seoul every summer with her Korean-born mother and spies on her cousins as they shop. "It is a kind of competition for them. It doesn't matter what their income is."

Her conclusion is supported by a mountain of data and a chorus of concerned economists. The household savings rate in South Korea will have plummeted from a world-beating 25.2 percent in 1988 to a projected world low of 3.2 percent in 2010, according to the OECD. Government policies have encouraged borrowing, while Korea's aggressive culture has supercharged spending on signifiers of success, whether they be Ivy League degrees or Louis Vuitton handbags.

"It is not recognized as a virtue to save, not anymore," said Lee Sun-uk, an investment adviser for an office of Samsung Securities that is located in a wealthy neighborhood of Seoul. "To maintain a certain status, people are willing to spend, even if their incomes have declined."

In the past decade, average savings per household have plunged from about $3,300 to $525. On a percentage basis, it is the steepest savings decline in the developed world. Meanwhile, household debt as a percentage of individual disposable income has risen to 140 percent, higher than in the United States (136 percent), according to the Bank of Korea.

The consequences of South Korea's collapsed savings rate are beginning to register in the country's slowing rate of growth, economists said. For nearly 40 years, growth galloped along at between 6 and 8 percent, as banks were flush with household savings that fueled business investment and research. But growth slowed to about 4.5 percent after 2000, when the savings rate dipped below 10 percent.

"The low savings rate is sapping our capacity to grow, and it is going to get worse," said Park Deog-bae, a research fellow who specializes in household finance at the Hyundai Research Institute. "It will lead to credit delinquency. It will cause greater income disparity. It means less resources for our aging population."

As South Korea changed from a war-battered farming society to Asia's fourth-largest economy, its savings rate was almost certain to decline. Economists consider a fall in savings and a rise in consumer spending to be part of the normal development process, as government-backed social services increase, property values rise, and stock markets grow.

But the fall-off-a-cliff character of what has happened with household savings in South Korea strikes many experts as abnormal and worrisome. It is one of several trends suggesting that South Korea, as it wrestles with post-industrial affluence, is a society under extraordinary stress.

South Koreans work more, sleep less and kill themselves at a higher rate than citizens of any other developed country, according to the OECD. They rank first in time spent online and second to last in spending on recreation, and the per capita birthrate scrapes the bottom of world rankings. By 2050, South Korea will be the most aged society in the world, narrowly edging out Japan, according to the OECD.

At the same time, South Korea ranks first in per capita spending on private education, which includes home tutors, cram sessions and English-language courses at home and abroad.

An obsessive pursuit of educational achievement, it seems, is one of the driving forces behind the low savings rate. About 80 percent of all students from elementary age to high school attend after-school cram courses. About 6 percent of the country's gross domestic product is spent on education, more than double the percentage of spending in the United States, Japan or Britain.

"Education is a fixed expenditure for Korean parents, even when household income shrinks," said Oh Moon-suk, executive director at LG Economic Research Institute. "Parents often overspend. It even appears to be leading to a slowdown in the birthrate."

As she plans her family's monthly spending, Lim Ji-young says she makes sure that at least a third of the money is reserved for the education of her 5-year-old son, Roah. Besides day-care fees, he requires money for books, alphabet tutoring and sports training. "We want to give our son the opportunity not to be left behind in this society," said Lim, 34, an office administrator in Seoul. "We want to provide him with what other people are providing. To avoid condescension from other people, you want to have the best."

Competitive spending -- on tutors, apartments, imported whiskey and designer handbags -- is a significant factor in the decline of saving in South Korean, according to Park at Hyundai Research. "Koreans are so much concerned about saving face," Park said. "This is encouraging overspending and it is sometimes irrational."

There are other reasons for the fall in savings that are eminently rational -- and sponsored by the government. When the economy nearly collapsed a decade ago during the Asian financial crisis, the government made low-cost loans available for the purchase of apartments. Borrowing exploded, as did housing values, while savings began to evaporate.

"Young households without proper discipline borrowed heavily from banks and on credit cards," said Lee Doo-won, a professor of economics at Yonsei University in Seoul. "They ended up with a huge amount of debt, and the debt trap is still there."

Stagnant incomes and job losses in the current recession have further reduced capacity for savings and have slowed debt repayment.

As important, the spending patterns of aging parents, many of whom have been tapped for loans by children in pursuit of real estate, mean that cash is steadily disappearing from savings accounts.

"Old people do not save," Lee said. "This is a long-term structural phenomenon. It will not change with the business cycle."

http://world.kbs.co.kr

Gov’t Seeks to Address Low Birthrate

Despite the government’s various policies to encourage childbirth, the nation continued to post a low birth rate in 2009.

Though the government established a basic plan on promoting childbirth in 2006 and has been implementing additional policies ever since, the nation’s birth rate has continued to remain static or, in some months, lower than in previous years.

According to a report issued by the Planned Parenthood Federation of Korea on November 18th, the average fertile South Korean woman gives birth to one-point-two children during her reproductive years. The figure is far lower than the world average of two-point-five children and has placed South Korea at the bottom of the list of the some 180 countries surveyed.

The report also forecast that South Korea will see its population decrease from more than 48 million this year to some 44 million by 2050.

If the prediction is correct, the nation will have the world’s 41st largest population, a plunge from its current rank of 26th.

Such figures have sparked concerns that the nation’s low birth rate would reduce the nation’s potential growth, as the economically active population would shrink considerably. Some observers claim that the current birth rate has reached a level that could threaten national security.

In response, the government opened a meeting on November 25th to discuss how best to counter low birth rates. It is also drawing up various measures to encourage childbirth.

http://world.kbs.co.kr

No. of Foreign Residents in S.Korea Tops 1 Mln

South Korea is increasingly becoming more multicultural, as the number of foreigners that settle in the nation is growing by the day.

The number of multicultural families is rising fast, mainly in the provinces, with Korean men in farming villages looking abroad to find wives. The number of foreigners who visit South Korea for business, study, or employment is also on the rise.

The government found in a survey that some one-point-one million foreigners were residing in the nation as of May. That’s around two-point-two percent of the nation’s total population.

The number of foreigners that visited the nation also jumped this year to surpass seven million for the first time on November 23rd.

The figure, up 14 percent from the same period last year, is regarded to be a significant achievement reached by the tourism industries, as it was posted amid the global financial crisis and the outbreak of H1N1 influenza.

The Korea Tourism Organization has unveiled plans to attract ten million foreign travelers to the nation on an annual basis by 2012.

http://www.nzz.ch

18. Dezember 2009

Abschied von der homogenen Nation

Die Einwanderung stellt Südkorea vor ungekannte Probleme

Eingeheiratete Vietnamesinnen erhalten Hilfe, um in Korea kulturell Anschluss zu finden. (Bild: Jo Yong-Hak / Reuters) Eingeheiratete Vietnamesinnen erhalten Hilfe, um in Korea kulturell Anschluss zu finden.

Der Aufstieg Koreas zu einer führenden Wirtschaftsnation zeitigt Folgen, an die man zunächst nicht gedacht hatte – nämlich eine wachsende Zahl der Migranten, die in Korea ihr Auskommen und Glück suchen. Eine ungewohnte Situation für ein Land, das einst selbst arm war.

Hoo Nam Seelmann

Lange waren es die Koreaner, die auswanderten, um sich durch harte Arbeit in der Fremde den Traum von einem besseren Leben zu erfüllen. So existiert heute eine recht ansehnliche koreanische Diaspora weltweit. Nun ist Südkorea selber ein Ziel der Migration geworden, und die fremden Gesichter der Immigranten kann man auf den Strassen nicht mehr übersehen. Man hört immer häufiger von Konflikten zwischen Koreanern und Ausländern, ebenso von Geschichten über Diskriminierungen der Letzteren. Erst allmählich kommen die Debatten über die Politik für und den Umgang mit den Ausländern in Gang. Im Mai 2009 lebten nach offizieller Zählung 1 106 884 Ausländer in Korea, die 2,2 Prozent der Gesamtbevölkerung ausmachen. Nicht eingeschlossen sind die illegalen Ausländer, deren Zahl man auf 300 000 schätzt. Wenn auch diese Zahlen im Vergleich zu vielen europäischen Staaten bescheiden ausfallen, sind die Herausforderungen, vor denen Südkorea nun steht, enorm, weil es über wenig Erfahrungen auf diesem Feld verfügt.

Eine neue Lage

Vom kulturellen Selbstverständnis her fühlen sich die Koreaner als ethnisch homogen, eine Einstellung, die weit in die Geschichte zurückreicht. Vom Konfuzianismus geprägt, beachtet ein Koreaner heute noch, von welcher Ahnenlinie jemand stammt. Denn Ahnenkult ist der wichtigste Kult in Korea; er achtet auf die Blutlinie und bringt den eigenen Ahnen eine gottähnliche Huldigung entgegen. Diese Vorstellung der Homogenität, die als Grundlage der nationalen Einheit und Identität diente, war bis jetzt nie einer ernsthaften Belastung ausgesetzt. Mit dem verstärkten Zustrom von Migranten ist nun eine neue Lage entstanden. Heute spricht man in Korea überall von einer «multikulturellen Gesellschaft», einem Konzept, das inzwischen in Europa auf viel Skepsis stösst. Die Politik der Multikulturalität sei gescheitert, man wolle keine Parallelgesellschaften, heisst es überall in Europa. Die Koreaner scheinen von diesen europäischen Debatten noch unberührt zu sein, denn Korea kennt die von der Migration herrührenden massiven gesellschaftlichen Konflikte noch nicht. Eingedenk der eigenen Migrationsgeschichte geben sich die Koreaner noch offen gegenüber der Einwanderung.

Betrachtet man statistische Daten, fallen einige Besonderheiten der südkoreanischen Situation auf. Mehr als 90 Prozent aller Immigranten stammen aus Asien, angeführt von den ethnischen Koreanern, die als Minderheit in China leben, dann folgen Chinesen, Vietnamesen, Filipinos und Thailändern. 49,1 Prozent aller Ausländer kamen nach Korea als Arbeiter, die in arbeitsintensiven Industriezweigen jene Tätigkeiten verrichten, die die Koreaner meiden. Ein typisches Phänomen, das durch ein beträchtliches Lohn- und Wohlstandsgefälle zwischen verschiedenen Ländern verursacht wird. Dahinter rangieren die Geschäftsleute (19,1 Prozent), und ihnen folgen mit 16,2 Prozent als drittstärkste Gruppe diejenigen Ausländer, die zur Eheschliessung nach Korea kommen. Hier dominiert die Kombination: Koreanische Männer heiraten Ausländerinnen. Solche Frauen mit ihren binationalen Ehen rücken nun in den Mittelpunkt des politischen und gesellschaftlichen Interesses. Denn diese Entwicklung wird auf die koreanische Gesellschaft einen nachhaltigen Einfluss ausüben und am Mythos der Homogenität nachdrücklich rütteln. Hier liegt auch ein Konfliktpotenzial, das nur eine umsichtige Politik entschärfen kann.

Schon seit langem finden vor allem Bauern und Fischer in Korea immer schwerer eine Koreanerin als Ehepartnerin. Diese Berufe haben ein schlechtes Image, und das niedrige Einkommen der Männer lässt sie wenig attraktiv erscheinen. Die massive Verstädterung in den letzten Jahrzehnten hat vor allem junge Frauen in die städtischen Ballungszentren getrieben. Wie überall versuchen Frauen auch in Korea nach oben zu heiraten, ein Umstand, der viele koreanische Männer partnerlos zurücklässt. In diese Lücke sprangen findige Heiratsvermittlungsinstitute, die seit 2000 Frauen aus China, Vietnam, von den Philippinen, aus Thailand und der Mongolei nach Korea vermittelten. 2008 betrug die Zahl bereits 144 385. Diese Frauen kommen nicht so sehr der Liebe wegen nach Korea, sondern wegen der Aussicht auf ein besseres Leben. Mittlerweile machen 11 Prozent aller Eheschliessungen Heiraten mit einem ausländischen Ehepartner aus. Es gibt aber Gegenden in Korea, in denen diese Rate bis auf 40 Prozent steigt. Um Missbräuche zu unterbinden, wurde im Dezember 2007 ein Gesetz verabschiedet, das die Vermittlungsinstitute strikter kontrolliert und die beteiligten Personen, die ausländischen Frauen wie die koreanischen Männer, vor betrügerischen Machenschaften schützt.

Die binationalen Ehen und ihre Familien stehen nun im Mittelpunkt des politischen und gesellschaftlichen Engagements, weil hier Kinder heranwachsen, die als Koreaner die Zukunft des Landes mitgestalten werden. Um diesen Familien zu helfen, wurde im Dezember 2007 ein weiteres Gesetz verabschiedet, das die Unterstützung der «multikulturellen Familien» regelt. Mehr als 120 «multikulturelle Center» sind landesweit geplant, und bereits viele davon sind eingerichtet, um kostenlos Orientierungs- und Sprachkurse anzubieten. Professionelle Helfer beraten auch die koreanischen Familienmitglieder, um Konflikte wegen der Sprachbarriere und kultureller Differenzen zu entschärfen.

Integrationsarbeit auf Augenhöhe

Broschüren in verschiedenen Sprachen über das Leben in Korea werden verteilt. Es gibt überall auch Beratungsstellen, die Frauen juristisch beistehen oder Übersetzungsdienste anbieten, um Anfangsschwierigkeiten zu überwinden. Vielfältige private Hilfsinitiativen von Buddhisten, Christen und Bürgergruppen konzentrieren ihr Angebot ebenso auf diese Familien. Dem Konzept liegt die Idee der Gegenseitigkeit zugrunde, d. h., man muss den neuen Mitbürgern das Verständnis der koreanischen Kultur abverlangen, zugleich sollen aber die Koreaner auch die Besonderheit der Kulturen jener Länder, aus denen die Migranten kommen, kennen- und respektieren lernen. Daher werden die Hilfspersonen speziell geschult, und viele Broschüren über die verschiedenen Herkunftsländer liegen überall bereit. Bis jetzt zumindest läuft die Integration ohne schwerwiegende Konflikte ab.

Trotz umfassenden Bemühungen müssen Ausländer insgesamt noch gegen viele Vorurteile ankämpfen, die teilweise rassistisch motiviert sind. Die Koreaner haben, obwohl sie selber lange Opfer der westlichen Rassenideologien waren, diese übernommen und wenden sie an anderen an. Westeuropäer und Nordamerikaner werden besser behandelt als Menschen aus ärmeren asiatischen Ländern, wenn auch die meisten der Arbeit wegen nach Korea kommen. Wie überall sind Ausländer auch in Korea nicht gleich, sondern je ärmer jemand ist, desto mehr Ausländer ist er.

http://times.hankooki.com

Supreme Court Rules Against Male-Centered Clan System

By Kim Tong-hyung, 07-21-2005

Reversing earlier decisions by lower courts, the Supreme Court Thursday ruled that married women have equal rights with men in sharing the wealth of their paternal families.

The ruling, which states that women should rightfully remain a member of her father’s family after marriage, could affect the outcome of similar lawsuits around the country and encourage more legal actions.

„Recognizing only male adults as members of a family clan and excluding female adults from it has little logic in today’s society based on a legal structure that promotes gender equality,“ the court said.

„Whether they are male or female, they should have equal rights and responsibilities in maintaining traditional customs such as maintaining burial grounds and carrying out ritual services,“ it said.

The top court referred the case back to the Seoul High Court.

Most civic groups welcomed the court decision as progress in promoting gender equality.

The Korea Women’s Association (KWAU) released a statement that called the ruling a milestone in improving women’s rights.

„The ruling is an extension of recent progress towards gender equality, such as the abolition of the family registration law. We hope that this will be the start of the practical application of written laws into everyday life,“ said Chung Hyun-back, who co-heads the civic group.

A Confucian-oriented family clan, or „chongjung“, includes all male adult family members with the same last name from the same origin. Only males have traditionally been recognized as members of a chongjung.

Korean law doesn’t clarify the concept or legal boundaries of a chongjung, handling the subject as part of customary law. Tuesday’s ruling reflects the increasing argument that change is inevitable in Korea’s traditionally male-centered family systems, finding better accordance with contemporary societal values.

In March, the National Assembly voted to abolish the „hoju,“ or the male-dominant family registration system, allowing parents to register their children under the mother’s family name starting in 2008. Under the Confucian tradition, only the man’s family name is passed on to his offspring.

The main plaintiffs of the Supreme Court case were five married women from the Lee family originating from Yongin, Kyonggi Province, who began their legal battle against their „chongjung,“ or family clan in 2000.

They claimed that they were discriminated against in the distribution of family wealth.

Two female members of the Shim family originating from Chongsong, Kyonggi Province, also took their case to court to protest the male-centered family clan system.

According to the plaintiffs, the Lee family distributed 35 billion won ($ 33.8 million) to its family members after selling some of its land to a local developer in 1999.

Each male adult received 150 million won, while each male aged under 20 received between 16.5 million won and 55 million won. Unmarried female adults received 33 million won each, while each daughter-in-law married to a male member of the family was given 30 million.

However, the married female adults, traditionally considered outsiders upon marriage, originally received nothing and were latter offered 22 million won each only after they protested.

Both the Suwon District Court, in March 2001, and the Seoul High Court, in December 2001, ruled in favor of the defendants, citing the tradition which allows only males to remain part of their family tree after marriage. The defendants, the male family members, dismissed the claims of unfair treatment.

Lee Seung-kwan, a director at Sungkyunkwan, the nation’s Confucian headquarters, denounced the top court’s decision, claiming that it will stir confusion.

„The chongjung has a special place in Korean tradition, as its members are responsible for carrying out rituals for their ancestors. Traditionally, women were required to honor the chongjung of their husband after marriage,“ he said.

Although the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, it also stressed that the decision could not be retroactive to past incidents and will only affect future cases, intending to reduce confusion and guarding against a possible flood of similar lawsuits.

This means that married women, including the Lee family plaintiffs, will not be able to claim a larger share of family wealth than has already been distributed, but could ask for equal shares in future distributions.

http://www.asianewsnet.net/




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