By Park Jin-hai
Nation-wide seminars on multiculturalism are to be initiated with a first batch of lectures scheduled for two regional cities.
The seminars, organized by the ASEAN-Korea Center, will take place in Gwangju and Suncheon on Aug. 30. During the two-session lectures - "Cultural Diversity" and "Overview of Southeast Asian Culture"- experts will gauge the level of awareness on multiculturalism among Koreans and suggest ideas to further enhance awareness.
Experts including professor Hahm Han-hee of Chonbuk National University and professor Park Kyung-eun of Hankuk University of Foreign Studies are invited to discuss cultural diversity, global multiculturalism trends and multicultural societies in Southeast Asia, as well as offering advice on which course Korea should take to embrace a multicultural society.
"It is very timely and meaningful in that it delves into the stories of ASEAN, an organization for regional cooperation which has succeeded in achieving ‘harmony in diversity,'" said Chung Hae-moon, secretary general of ASEAN-Korea Center. "It can serve as a model for Korea charting a future towards a multicultural society" he added.
The seminars are the outcome of the center's May 16 workshop, where participants reached a consensus that it needs to raise the understanding of multiculturalism in Korea at a time when it sees the population of multicultural families on a steep rise.
The importance of cultural diversity has gradually come to the fore, since Korea adopted an open-door immigration policy and brought in foreign immigrants at the end of the 1980s.
According to the Ministry of Security and Public Administration, immigrants by way of marriage and naturalized citizens to Korea in 2012 amounted to 270,000 (a twofold increase from 140,000 in 2008). Among them ASEAN nationalities accounted for approximately 70,000.
The number of children from multicultural families in 2012 totaled 170,000 (a threefold increase from 58,000 in 2008), and children with parents from ASEAN countries accounted for 65,000 (approximately 50% of births from multicultural families were given by women from ASEAN countries).
To raise the importance of cultural diversity, Korea designated May 20 as "Together Day" and promotes the harmonious coexistence among people of different cultural backgrounds.