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South Korea; Support for Multicultural Families Act Enacted

 With the increase of foreign residents in South Korea, the "Basic Law regarding the Better Treatment of Foreign Residents in Korea" was enforced in July 2007 among others, and the government is promoting policies to integrate foreign residents as members of the society. The "Support for Multicultural Families Act" was established on 21 March 2008 and enacted on 22 September. According to this law, the term "multicultural family" applies to families consisting of Korean nationals and immigrant spouses (including those who naturalize after their marriage) and their children. The law requires the state and municipal governments to actively support such families in order for them to improve their quality of life and to live stably. More specifically, the law includes the requirement for the Ministry of Welfare to conduct survey every 3 years, to stem discrimination and prejudice, and to nurture a social background which recognizes the diversity of people, as well as to provide information and education support to such families. These measures are based on the "Basic Law regarding the Better Treatment of Foreign Residents in Korea". In this connection, the "Center to support Immigrant Spouses", established in 2006 by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family (currently the Ministry of Women's Affairs), changed its name to the "Center to support Multicultural Families".
 According to figures from the Statistics Agency, the total number of couples who married in Korea in 2007 was 345,592, and 38,491 of them (approx. 11%) were international marriages. Among them, 29,140 Korean men married foreign wives, and 9,351 Korean women married foreign husbands. Regarding foreign wives, 14,526 wives came from China, 6,611 from Vietnam, and 1,665 from Japan, and 1,531 from the Philippines.
 The number of women immigrants who come from Asian countries has increased rapidly since 2000. However, many problems which immigrant women faced were pointed out such as malicious marriage brokers similar to human traffickers, conflicts with husbands and their families, and communication difficulties. During this time, some NGOs supporting immigrant women and foreign residents in South Korea raised various issues to the government to protect the human rights of immigrant women and to promote the transition to a multicultural society. The discussions are still continuing regarding how to support "multicultural families" and the concept of an "integrated society". Some NGOs criticize the multicultural family support programs which, in fact, expedite assimilation and advocate the imposition of Korean patriarchal traditions. They also pointed out that the meaning of "multicultural family" by the government excluded immigrant laborers, refugees and overseas Chinese. Moreover they felt that the government did not recognize the diverse needs of individual immigrant women with various backgrounds. The NGOs opposed the idea that international marriage was a countermeasure merely to tackle the aging society with fewer birthrates in South Korea. They are also trying to continue efforts to find ways to create a multicultural society which is comfortable for everybody.

· KTV (broadcasted on September 22, 2008) [Korean]
· “Addressing issues about South Korea: Special Program Part 1 – Multicultural families – Support activities to the increasing number of immigrant spouses who married Korean men in order to integrate into local societies” by Tabuchi Tomoko ‘Forum on Local Authorities for International Relations’ vol. 224 (The June Issue of 2008)[Japanese]
·Korea National Statistical Office
· “South Korea; Basic Law regarding the Better Treatment of Foreign Residents Enacted” News-in-Brief HURIGHTS OSAKA (August 2007)[Japanese]