1. ‘Sustainable’ multicultural city

A ‘sustainable multicultural city’ refers to a city that makes it possible to understand diversity between immigrants and permanent residents in the frequent trans-national immigration based on globalization, and to improve the quality of life of city members on the basis of more plentiful cultural diversity. A sustainable multicultural city can be considered to be a city that implements the concept of ‘sustainable development and respects cultural diversity. The term ’sustainable development’ began to be used in earnest when World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) defined it as “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” in its report ‘Our Common Future’ announced in 1987.

The concept of sustainable development is defined or discoursed in terms of the an academic disciplinary meaning in diverse academic areas or the transdisciplinary meaning. For this reason, this concept and its application method have been changed differently depending on times and situations. Before the 1990s, economy, society, and the environment were considered to be separate areas interacting with each other, and economic growth and environmental preservation were viewed as the relationship of conflict. The concept that comes out of the academic disciplinary frame is sustainable development. Economic growth, social inclusion, and environmental preservation have been focused on as a phenomenon that can occur all at once or in convergence and association in each area. Since then, sustainable development has continued to be discussed in the world in terms of academic and field-practical aspects. Sustainable economic growth has drawn attention in the point that the human society is closely related to the environment and economy is a part of social activities. Therefore, there have been opinions that it is necessary to lay the sustainable foundation from social and environmental perspectives. [Fig. 1] illustrates the recent interaction system of sustainable development in economic, environmental, and social areas.

[Fig. 1] The concept system of sustainable development

There are principles of sustainable development. The first one is intergenerational equity. It includes the idea that it is required to not to give a burden to the next generation in order for richness of the present generation, which is the main value of sustainable development. To dot that, it is necessary to sustainably secure various types of social security system including natural resources, pleasant conditions, and medical insurance, human resources and stable financial structure.

The second one is to improve social members’ quality of life. What matters for more pleasant and stable life is to maintain a healthy environment. Additionally, it is required to develop individuals’ potential, satisfy with their jobs, have pleasant residential conditions, secure eco-friendly and safe agricultural and marine products, receive social recognition, and keep health.

The third one is social inclusion. It is necessary to establish an institutional system to evenly distribute social wealth of social members and secure an opportunity of political participation. In the rapidly changing social environment and industrial structure, social members need to have the spirit and value of community. The social members include not only a global immigrant group, but permanent residents as a majority group.

The fourth one is transnational responsibility. An environmental issue in a certain region in the world can emerge as a global environmental issue. Based on the perception that this environmental issue, resource depletion issue, war, and terror are globally interconnected, it is required to respond to them together. Furthermore, such issues as environmental preservation and antipoverty should be approached in a global dimension beyond a national boundary

A sustainable multicultural city should embody and implement the aforementioned four principles of sustainable development and multiculturalism, and should design and carry out the multicultural policy based on them. In pluralism, the world consists of multiple factors, not only one. These factors are independent and are unable to reduce to a different one. Pluralism accepts independent values, ideas, and goals of individuals or groups in society, guarantees independence and autonomy of each one, or takes the stance of understanding and explaining social and cultural phenomena on the premise of the guarantee. Pluralism is resistant against standardization controlled by powerful elites and accepts autonomy of each area.

Multiculturalism refers to thinking or policies encouraging cultural diversity. The idea of multiculturalism emerged in the western democratic society in the 1970s. Since Korean society changed to multicultural society, minority groups have emerged and the idea of multiculturalism has discussed. In the rapidly integrated modern global society, people freely experience multiple cultures of different countries, races, and groups, and it is more necessary to understand and accept cultural diversity. Multiculturalism lays stress on respect of different cultures and tolerance of cultural difference. In order for Incheon to become a sustainable multicultural city, it is necessary to understand cultural diversity and establish a policy to keep and expand the cultural diversity.

  1. Korean multicultural society and multicultural policy

2.1. Population diversity in Korean soceity

In the 2000s, Korean society came to have one million foreigners. Since then, the number of immigrants has been on the rise. This population change began with the inflow of various types of immigrants, including immigrant laborers, married immigrants, and foreign students. The sharp increase in foreigners occurred when the working visit system for overseas Koreans was enforced in March 2007. As of June 2019, the number recorded 2,420,000. The increase trend of foreigners staying in Korea is shown in [Fig. 2].

[Fig. 2] The increase trend of foreigners staying in Korea

(Source: the monthly statistics reported by Korea Immigration Service of Ministry of Justice, Jun. 2019)

In 2019, the number of foreigners staying in Korea by nationality is shown in <Table 1>.

<Table 3-1> Registered foreigners by nationality  (Unit: persons)

Nationality Total China Vietnam Uzbekistan The Philippines Cambodia Nepal Others
No. of persons 1,257,366 552,376 178,738 53,628 44,414 44,163 39,308 344,739
Rate 100% 43.9% 14.2% 4.3% 3.5% 3.5% 3.1% 27.4%

(Source: the monthly statistics reported by Korea Immigration Service of Ministry of Justice, Jun. 2019)

According to the <Table 1>, as of June 2019, registered ones among foreigners staying in Korea numbered 1,250,000. In terms of nationalities, Chinese numbered 550,000, accounting for 43.9%, followed by vietnamese who numbered 170,000 (14.2%), Uzbekistan people, Filipinos, and Cambodian people in order. In this case, Chinese include Korean Chinese.

<Table 2> Registered foreigners by region (Unit: persons)

Total Gyeonggi Seoul Gyeongnam Incheon Choongnam Gyeongbuk Busan Choongbuk
1,257,366 411,798 284,430 74,230 70,244 74,200 57,363 45,280 39,671
Jeonnam Ulsan Daegu Jeonbuk Gwangju Jeju Daejeon Gangwon
33,519 20,058 28,305 32,353 23,420 25,374 18,413 18,708

(Source: the monthly statistics reported by Korea Immigration Service of Ministry of Justice, Jun. 2019)

When it comes to registered foreigners by region, they densely live in metropolitan areas, including Seoul, Gyeonggi, and Incheon, as shown in <Table 2>. In each one of such regions as Gyeongnam and Choongnam, about 70,000 residents stay.

Recently, there is a view that foreigners are the hog spot of a social problem, or a prediction of xenophobia of citizens, which is highly likely to arise. To prevent these problems, it is necessary to establish a social inclusion policy and social safety network in local governments.

2.2. Korean social inclusion policy

The social inclusion policy of Korean government is a policy on foreigners. In a deep analysis, beyond social and cultural adaptation of foreigners and immigrants, the policy requests Korean social members embracing them to respect their cultural diversity and have global citizenship as global citizens.

With the frequent trans-national immigration, each country needs to make an effort to achieve social inclusion in multiculturalism, beyond uniformity of race or state. A multicultural society appeared as the result of various social changes from trans-national immigration. In this course, a new relationship between immigrants and permanent residents is established, and social, economic and political factors can trigger conflict. Nevertheless, by introducing and enforcing the policy and give citizens an opportunity to recognize interculturalism, it is possible to find a new integration path (Youngsoon Kim et al., 2016). In addition, the multicultural society made by multicultural families has a conflict by ‘difference’, but incorporates the positive aspect of the acceptance of various cultures. Among immigrants, married immigrant women hope to have Korean nationality and put down roots in the country if possible. Therefore, the government already carries out a multicultural family policy.

The multicultural family policy is generally managed and controlled by  ‘multicultural family policy committee’ established according to Article 3 (4) of Support for Multicultural Families Act’. Relevant central departments and local governments deliver instructions which are executed mostly by multicultural family support centers in consideration of the size and situation of local governments. This multicultural family policy committee regularly establishes and performs the master plan and mplementation plan for supporting multicultural families, analyzes and evaluates performance achievements. In addition, as a control tower, it adjusts a variety of multicultural family support projects, makes deliberation and conciliation of the matters about inter-department cooperation.

As the main government department of multicultural family policy, Ministry of Gender Equality and Family establishes and performs master plan and implementation plans for departments in discussion with Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Education, other relevant government offices, governors and mayors. In addition, the ministry receives and evaluates annual reports of performance achievements in order to manage the multicultural family policy generally and practically. Multicultural family service centers in the nation are commissioned by local governments to provide Korean language education for adaptation and independence of married immigrant women, family service, gender equality and human rights service, social inclusion, consultation, promotion, and resource association service. As such, the multicultural family policy consists of welfare services which are relatively easy in terms of budget and administrative power.

  1. Multicultural family support policy in Korean society

The multicultural family policy has been very active since 2006 (Cho & Seo, 2013). In April 2006, twelve government offices and two committees, including Presidential Committee on Social Inclusion. and Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, jointly announced ‘the social inclusion plan for supporting married immigrant women’s families and mixed-race peopleimmigrants’ and ‘the master plan for the social inclusion of mixed-race people and immigrants’. These plans were made to be performed in a national dimension and to lay the legal and institutional foundation. As the result of these efforts, the policy of supporting married immigrant women was established, and was organized by Ministry of Gender Equality and Family from the perspective that the policy should focus on women and families (Presidential Committee on Social Inclusion, 2006). Ministry of Gender Equality and Family test-operated twenty one married immigrants families service centers which are now changed to multicultural family service centers in cities and districts (Kang, 2012).

In Dec. 2007, domestic violence and others for married immigrants emerged as a social issue. As a result, ‘Marriage Brokers Business Management Act’ was established in order to contribute to sound marriage culture. In March 2008,  ‘Support for Nulticultural Families Act’ to systemize multicultural family policy for information offering and social adaptation education was established and enacted. Therefore, the name of married immigrants families service center for providing multicultural family service was changed to ˹multicultural family service center˼. The Korean multicultural family policy is carried out by multicultural family service centers under local governments (Ghang Bok-jeong, 2012).

In Oct. 2008, Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs announced ‘multicultural family life-cycle based customized support enhancement plan for multicultural families in order to support social inclusion of multicultural families (Ministry for Health and Welfare, 2008). It consists of policies about comprehensive health, welfare, and family affairs in terms of multicultural family support. Before the plan, focused were on married immigrants’ adaptation to Korean culture, their human rights and protection of their rights. Since the plan, various welfare policies for married immigrants and their families were introduced. At that time, the government suggested four policy objectives and three policy directions under the policy on ‘open multicultural society for global Korea’. In line with multicultural family life-cycle, seven policy tasks, 21 detailed tasks, and 66 projects were established and performed. They are found in the 1st master plan of multicultural family policy (2010~2012).

In Mar. 2010, in order to generally manage the policy on multicultural family support and enhance its adjustment function, the government transferred the main department of the policy to Ministry of Gender Equality and Family and reorganized the performance system of the policy. The reason for the decision was that Ministry of Gender Equality and Family plays a leading role in the operation of multicultural family policy committee and that it was necessary to enhance the role of each relevant department in order to prevent work redundancy and operate the policy efficiently (Chang & Chang, 2010). In May of the year, in the 2nd multicultural family policy committee meeting, the prime minister and relevant government offices jointly determined ‘the 1st multicultural family support policy master plan(2010-2012)’ which focused on projects from the perspective of multicultural families, rather than married immigrants. The plan mainly includes the gradual enhancement of the support for multicultural families and the strict management of their marriage and immigration process. It also includes the mid-and long-term view of systematically supporting married immigrant women’s social adaptation and welfare service in the stages of life cycle. This policy embraces the ‘multicultural family life-cycle which reflected the concept of ’family life-cycle’ (Seol, 2010).

 In July 2010, the regulations of multicultural family policy committee were revised (Prime Minister Orders No. 552), and the president of the committee changed from chief secretary to the Prime Minister to the Minister of Gender Equality and Family. Accordingly, Ministry of Gender Equality and Family led the operation of multicultural family policy committee, including the establishment of implementation plans, the design and cooperation of projects, abd Prime Minister’s Office played roles in resolving different opinions between departments and supporting them. In order for married immigrants to settle and live well in Korea, Ministry of Gender Equality and Family established the policy performance system through the support for multicultural families, and devised and performed the joint master plan of relevant departments. In addition, for multicultural families, the ministry supported married immigrants’ early adaptation to Korean society and stable life of multicultural families by providing life-cycle based customized services including family education, consultation, and cultural programs. In April 2011, the government revised Support For Multicultural Families Act and expanded the scope of multicultural families, came up with the master plan for supporting multicultural families, and laid the foundation for setting up annual implementation plans. Above all, the scope of multicultural families expanded from multicultural families based on international marriage to the families whose members attained Korean nationality through naturalization and acknowledgement and the families of married immigrants.

The multicultural family policy began to be discussed from the interest in international marriage so that it basically has the discriminatory exclusive model based on the families of married immigrants. The government role was played on the somewhat abstract concept ‘culture, and therefore the aspects of social service policy were emphasized. Multiple programs and policies were performed for the purpose of assimilation based social inclusion that helps domestically registered married immigrant women and their families adapt themselves to Korean society and culture.

In Jun. 2011, Ministry of Gender Equality and Family held the 1st multicultural family policy working group meeting and established and announced ‘the plan for supporting multicultural families in 16 cities and provinces’ in which a total of 6.82 million won invested in 327 projects in five categories. According to the plan, the project of supporting the growth of children in multicultural families had the largest scale. In addition, ‘the master plan for supporting multicultural families’ according to the Article 3 of Support for Multicultural Families Act was newly designed, and the performance period of the master plan was defined as five years.

The 6th multicultural family policy committee meeting opened in Dec. 2012 deliberated and determined ‘the 2nd multicultural family policy master plan(2013~2017)’. According to the plan, the 2nd master plan contributed to the perception that the multicultural family policy was essential for families with diverse cultures, not simply for married immigrants, in Korean society. In Feb. 2013, the result of the ‘2012 national survey on multicultural families’ was announced according to the Article 4 of Support for Multicultural Families Act. As a result, new policy issues, including concentration on low-income jobs like simple labor work and day work, severe social discrimination, and weak social network, emerged, and the necessity of the policy responding to the growth of their children was suggested.

In Jan. 2014, the government held the 8th multicultural family policy committee meeting to discuss and determine the ‘multicultural family policy improvement plan’. This plan was designed jintly by seven departments in order to adjust similar and redundant projects of departments determined in the 7th multicultural family policy committee held in Apr. 2013 and to establish an efficient multicultural family policy performance plan.

In Apr. 2016, the result from ‘the 2015 national survey on multicultural families’ with 27,120 multicultural families’ was announced (Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, 2016). Based on the result, Ministry of Gender Equality and Family proposed a policy for improving social relationships of multicultural families and enhanced the customized policy on the basis of their children’s growth background and life cycle. In May of the year, in order to increase the effectiveness of multicultural family policy, and in order for married immigrants to participate in the process of establishing and performing a relevant policy, the 1st multicultural family participation meeting was held in the Seoul Office of the Government.

In Apr. 2017, the ‘2017 multicultural family policy implementation plan’ was determined. In the multicultural family policy, the government focused on the support for their abilities of multicultural families as social members, beyond their early settlement in Korean society. Additionally, in order to expand the scope of multicultural families and improve the effectiveness of the policy, the government reorganized the performance system of multicultural family policy for healthy families. Through the government 3.0 collaboration, twelve ‘multicultural immigrant plus centers’ were opened, where immigrants were able to receive a variety of governmental services necessary for their life in Korea. Professional consultants of multiculture were assigned to five immigration offices in order for multicultural families, foreign workers, foreign students, and overseas Koreans to receive various services necessary for their life in Korea, and for entrants to share information smoothly in their early settlement. The plan is beneficiaries-oriented and is operated  in association with policy services through collaboration of relevant departments. Accordingly, multicultural immigrants plus centers was established on the basis of something common between foreigners policy and multicultural family policy so that it was different from the integrated service operation of healthy·multicultural family support centers.

In Feb. 2018, in the joint meeting of the 21st foreigners policy committee and the 15th multicultural family policy committee, the 3rd multicultural family policy master plan(2018-2022) was determined. It mainly included the establishment of a consultation office for supporting the issue of immigrant victims of violence through one-stop system, the expansion of a facility for protecting immigrant women suffered by domestic violence, and the extended support of rental houses for immigrant women suffered by domestic violence. In addition, funds for supporting their independence after their leaving from the facility were prepared, an immigration official for international marriage was dispatched to Vietnam, and relief from international marriage damage was supported in cooperation with Danuri Call Center, Korea Consumer Agency, and Korea Legal Aid Corporation. In addition, employment and child incentives were given to single-parents in multicultural families. Other services, such as the expansion of independence support package program, education of bilingual talented persons, global bridge project, continued to be provided.

As such, multicultural families triggered citizens’ universal interest in the expansion of multicultural society in Korea. The multicultural family policy has been improved in a relatively short period in terms of the protection of human rights of multicultural families, adaptation to Korean society, and the development of a policy on their family relationship and child growth. The multicultural family policy performance system includes a wide range of departments in order to address various issues of married immigrant women, such as nationality and identification by immigration and Korean language education, beyond the support for their adaptation to Korean society.

  1. Conclusion and suggestion

Trans-national immigration through globalization become not only one of syndromes together with globalization, but a universal phenomenon. Foreigners accounting for 5% of the total population already live in Korea, and the country experiences the early multicultural society. What matters is how a majority of us embrace diverse cultures to achieve social inclusion and sustainable society, rather than how we embrace and assimilate the immigrants.

Social inclusion including interculturalism means the respect of social members’ diversity, rather than the emphasis on social homogeneity. It means that social members with diverse races accept their differences and mutually respect each other’s culture and laws and systems based on interculturalism are established already systematically (Youngsoon Kim, 2010). In order to establish the interculturalism based social inclusion system, it is necessary to open an immigration office and make Korea immigration Service Center (integration of foreigner service center) under local governments.

Youngsoon Kim

Professor, Head, The Convergence Institute for Multicultural Studies,

Inha University, South Korea


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