chapter  4
Transnational migration in East Asia: The evolving migration policy in South Korea and its implications
Pages 20

Generally speaking, transnational migration is increasing around the world and East Asia, including South Korea (hereafter Korea), is not an exception. The number of incoming migrant workers is increasing in Korea and a large number of South Koreans are also living in Southeast Asia. Historically, many Koreans have been living in China and Japan, while Koreans living in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries have also been increasing over the years due to improving bilateral and multilateral relationships between Korea and ASEAN. Since the ASEAN Plus Three (APT) process began in 1997, APT cooperation has deepened and broadened greatly. Before 1997, there was little active policy cooperation, but, as APT structures developed, policy cooperation between ASEAN and Korea has rapidly increased. It includes cooperation in the areas of politics and security; trade and investment; tourism; agriculture, fishery and forestry; minerals; energy; education, science and technology; environment; migration; and culture and people-to-people contact. Many Koreans are now living in the Philippines, followed by Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and others (Overseas Koreans Foundation 2011). This chapter reviews public policy responses to the increase in Asian migrants in

Korea. International labour migration is expected in the 21st century, not only because of liberal migration regulations, but also because of a shortage of labour in some countries with an ageing population, supply pressure, the domestic income gap between countries and the innovation of information technology (Kim 2008). The huge wave of migrants or foreign workers in the neo-liberal economic system is aggravated by poverty in developing countries. The Migration Policy Institute of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that the world population as of 2010 is 6.5 billion, and 213 million people are international migrants (about 3.1 per cent). This means that one out of 30 people is an international migrant (Lim and Jin 2011). Accordingly, the population structures in sending and receiving countries

change rapidly as a result of global migration. Just as people working and living outside their own home countries increase, the types and routes of migrants also become more diverse. There are some countries that have existing migrants from

and a have begun a source of migrants to other countries (Han and Seol 2007). For Korea, agricultural labour migration to Hawaii started in 1902, and the overseas migration policy of the Korean government began with the Overseas Migration Act in 1962. In 1963, Korea sent agricultural migrants to Latin America and economic migrants to Germany for mining work and nursing services and the Middle East for construction in the 1960s and 1970s. At that time, Korea was typically a sending country as it was developing its domestic industries and local jobs were still in short supply. However, this changed in the mid-1980s with Korea becoming a receiving country. Due to continuous economic growth, the “3D (difficult, dangerous and dirty) job avoidance phenomenon” appeared for the first time (Shim 2007) and a severe shortage of labour in manufacturing, construction and agricultural areas arose. Thus, immigrants to Korea outnumbered emigrants. Policy measures on foreign migration began in the 1980s but the adoption of

the industrial technical “trainee” system (Taiwan used a similar system to recruit migrant workers) from 1993 onward is the starting point of migration policy development in Korea. However, the industrial technical trainee system led to many problems in Korea and Taiwan because it regarded many incoming migrant workers as trainees and was a short-term programme. To resolve problems, a work permit system was adopted in 2004, and a social integration policy for foreign migrants was introduced in 2006 along with the widespread expansion of policies to develop a multiracial and multinational society (Won 2011).1 Consequently, the increase of foreign migrants influenced change in the labour market, economic structure, cultural opening, expansion of ethnic diversity, and socio-political concerns about increasing ethnic groups (Kang 2006; Hwang et al. 2007; Won 2008; Jeon 2008; Choi 2008; Won 2011). In particular, the increase of female migrants particularly for marriage is a special characteristic as it challenges the premise of “one nation, one culture”.2 Such an increase in migration and multicultural families raised the need for policy intervention, and the corresponding endeavours of the government are embodied in its diverse policies. It could be said that Korea is on its way to becoming a multiracial and multi-

cultural society as foreign migrants exceed 2 per cent of the total population. A low birth rate and an ageing society has accelerated the shortage of labour, attracting a diverse range of foreigners residing in Korea with an increasing rate of permanent residence (Kim 2007). While the rapid progress of a multiracial society requires multicultural coexistence, a bias against migrant women and migrant labour causes various social conflicts (Kang 2007). The situation constitutes a serious problem of socio-cultural adaptation at the individual and social levels (Park and Yi 2009). For Korean society to achieve sound social integration and become a multicultural society without conflict, the socio-cultural adaptation of migrants has become one of the most important objectives of the country (Choi and Kim 2011). Korea is an important case study in which to understand how a host society can reshape its attitudes, enact new policies and mobilise the different organisations and society segments to create a more supportive environment for

a in market for The ageing society is a recent phenomenon that the human race has not

experienced before, which is the result of an improved average life expectancy and a decrease in the birth rate in the 20th century (Laslett 1995). The ageing of society relates to a change in the composition (or pyramid) of the age levels which closely relates to population transition. Such a transition has appeared in different forms in advanced countries and developing countries (Choi and Kim 2011). While the population transition in advanced countries has been achieved over a long period, developing countries have experienced a rapid population transition in the late 20th century. Such an ageing process is experienced in different ways in different countries, thus policy making in Korea is problematic as it is based on advanced countries’ experience of multiculturalism. This chapter has two major research questions: (1) how did the transnational

migration policy evolve in Korea over the years in both central and local governments; and (2) what kinds of policy models did the Korean government utilise? The chapter will first discuss theoretical issues on foreign migration, followed by a discussion on the status of the foreign population in Korea. Then, changes in the migration and social integration policies of the central and local governments will be discussed.