Monday, March 10, 2014

Foreign Koreans in South Korea

When we are abroad, Koreans of the diaspora are seen as assets and opportunity for South Korea. When we return we're liabilities.

South Korea seems to be particularly disconnected from its role in creating the diaspora, and often discriminates against its "foreign" Korean population.

For example, 200,000 of us who live(d) in diaspora were mocked by Saturday Night Live  because of our poor Korean language skills and shallow understanding of Korean "culture." (Which is basically the one that ROK promotes abroad: taekwondo, kimchi, Korean Wave are the extent of Korean culture according to what it promotes overseas.) They of course take no responsibility after sending us out of the country to be adopted to raise hard currency after exploiting and coercing our mothers during the rapid industrialization Yushin period of 1961-1979 through their reproductive and industrial labor.

There's also the 100,000 military wives who are connected to over half of the 1.7 million Korean Americans as the community's immigration as sponsors. However, they're barely mentioned or still a whispered family story, even as the ROK sanctioned and promoted camptowns and keeps renewing the military agreements that keeps US forces in Korea. Their mixed race children are coming back to Korea as ethnic Koreans with foreign passports. Like with almost all populations of Koreans, some of those included in this group were also adopted.

What rights and protections are returning Koreans entitled to as humans and as Koreans? Chinese Koreans, Chosun-jok, are generally looked on warily as illegal workers. Refugees from DPRK are fascinating, but mostly exoticized. Koreans from the former Soviet Union, Koryo-saram, are barely acknowledged. How many Korean Americans are dismissed as Kyopos who don't understand really, Korea? Korean Japanese, the largest overseas Korean community is largely invisible here.
South Korea now has more ethnic Koreans with foreign passports residing in its country than ever before, according to statistics released by the Ministry of Justice.

The data reveals that the number of ethnic Koreans with non-Korean citizenship increased by 24 percent in 2013 as more than 233,000 such people have now found a home on the Korean peninsula. Among the 1.57 million foreigners residing legally in South Korea, 15 percent of them are of Korean descent, according to the Ministry of Justice.

The hike in numbers was driven largely by a steady influx of Korean Chinese immigrants due to the amendment of immigration laws in 2008, which gave Korean Chinese more benefits and rights.

Just four years ago, Korean Americans residing in Korea outnumbered other ethnic Koreans at approximately 31,700 compared to only about 4,800 Korean Chinese. But the Korean Chinese community is now by far larger than the other ethnic Korean segment, with a population of over 150,000.

In fact, a staggering two-thirds of ethnic Koreans residing in South Korea are Korean Chinese. Korean Americans now only make up 19 percent of the ethnic Korean population followed by Koreans from Canada, Australia, Uzbekistan and Russia.

More ethnic Korean immigrants have been relocating to their motherland at a significantly higher rate in recent years as there were only about 50,000 in the country only in 2009. The number rose to 83,825 in 2010, 135,020 in 2011 and 187,616 in 2012 before eclipsing the 200,000-mark for the first time ever.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The other migrants

This article, Rights for Migrant Workers in Korea-NOW!, writes about the Migrant Worker's struggles here in the ROK. It focuses on the poorest, most pathetic segment of the migrants in Korea. Just as in the US no one focuses on the migrants working in Silicon Valley, foreign professors who fill STEM jobs that cannot be filled with native-born talent, or the doctors and nurses from the Global South, pity is used to appeal for human and worker rights here in Korea. There is exploitation among the educated and skilled, and transferred labor is not just the domain of the unskilled. If we can work together we could be much more effective.

English teachers in Korea should also be included in this struggle. They are often exploited, forced to work more without compensation, expected to work injured or sick, and exposed to sexual harassment, etc.

For many adoptees (if they were adopted to one of the approved former British colonies: the US, Canada, South Africa, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand) or the UK itself, teaching English is their only option, locking them into the mercy of the ETI (English teaching industry). 

Although English teachers come from the global north, and presumably have more agency, many of the teachers here in ROK are here because they can't find teaching jobs in their home countries. Another large portion are here to pay off their student loans, so they're essentially in debt bondage to jobs they contractually cannot leave. The Migrant Trade Union has said that English teachers are the #2 filers of complaints with them.

Monday, January 6, 2014

[In-depth interview] adopted, twice abandoned 'ghost man' fall ... International Mia

This MBC story (With video. The quotes from adoptees are subtitled in Korean if you want to hear the originals) is about adoptees who are now living in Korea because they were deported from the US.

Since I can't use the language that was my birthright, I've pasted the (edited) Google Translate transcript below.

China is number one, followed by Ethiopia and Russia. Our country is astonishingly ranked number six. We sent 160,000 babies abroad to be adopted. Among them are a few cases of those twice discard. Anh Da Go reports.

Reporter: Dressed in ragged clothes, the men can be seen roaming the streets. "It's really terrible. Their arms and legs are cut, and their clothes are torn." Most people pass by, ignoring these "living ghosts." "I'm alone. No one knows [me]. Mossi was adopted when he was 2 years old, and returned when he was deported back to Korea at 34 years old. His parents could do nothing because he was not naturalized."If everything is going well, and there had been no adoption, I don't think I would have had no problems." Two years ago a deported adoptee was caught robbing a bank.

The government doesn't know about the immigration status of 20,004 people who were sent to be adopted. Pastor Kim Do Hyun of KoRoot "[the government] should track these cases better. These children had no family..." Adoptees often suffer from identity confusion, the suicide rate and drug addiction is four times higher than average. Laura Klunder "They said we didn't your sister to be lonely. I think they wanted me to be their pet." The government passed new laws about international adoption a year ago. Hwang Pil Gyu, a lawyer at a family law firm says, "Biological parents should raise their own children, but it they can't how can those children be protected? How to ensure the protection of children is a vital question. Of the OECD countries six send children to be adopted. In 2012 only 750 children got children from South Korea.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Soldier's Last Flight

From Human's of New York's Facebook page:

"I was on a commercial flight yesterday, heading back from a visit to Atlanta, when the captain announced that the plane was transporting the body of a slain serviceman. I was sitting at the back of the plane, so when we finally arrived at LaGuardia, I had to wait several minutes for my turn to exit. When I finally stood up from my seat, the scene was surreal. The entire left side of the plane was empty. But everyone on the right side of the plane was still in their seats-- faces pressed against the window. I walked past thirty rows of seats before I finally found an open window, and could see what everyone was looking at. The soldier's name was Ibraham Torres. UPDATE: I'd encourage everyone to look at the top comment from Ibraham's friend."
Ibraham was born in Mexico. He immigrated to New York with his mother, with whom I worked with for six years. His life is among the thousands that inspire and motivate my interest and work regarding immigration (along with ICA-related immigration, including my own).

I last saw him with his son at that job just before I left for Korea. I'm not a fan of the "all soldiers are heroes" meme that came about after the Vietnam War era vets were so badly mistreated. Here in Korea nearly all men must do military service, and a lot of them would've loved to have gotten pardoned from that duty. So, to me Ibraham was much more than a soldier. He was his mother's baby, his baby's father, his little sisters' brother, and of course his father's son. For those reasons he should be honored. That he was a soldier is important, but a fact beside the main point.

Ibraham Torres 1988-2013