The Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs has developed Guidelines on Support Measures for the Integration of Foreigners Residing in Local Municipalities into Communities and circulated it to all the municipalities on 24 August 2006. According to the press release issued by the Ministry, these guidelines are intended to ensure that local municipalities accept foreign residents as members of the community and to promote comprehensive support for them at the local level.
South Korea has witnessed a sharp increase in the number of foreign workers since the latter half of the 1980s, when the economic growth started to accelerate in the country. Foreign spouses have been on the increase, too, as a result of inter-country marriage. According to the Ministry's survey on the status of foreigners, conducted in April 2006, there are 536,627 foreign residents who have resided in the country for more than ninety days, amounting to 1.1% of the whole population. 39,525 (7.4%) of them have acquired Korean nationality through naturalization, birth or adoption, but are counted as foreigners for policy purposes. The figure also includes foreigners who are in an irregular situation, such as those who have overstayed their visa or those who are involved in unauthorized activities.
In this context, it has been pointed out that discrimination and prejudice as well as xenophobic attitudes against foreigners persist in the Korean society. Foreigners who have come to the country in recent years face communication difficulties, cultural differences, low standards of living and other problems. Public support for them is not adequate, however. The Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs identifies policy issues, including that the actual situation of foreigners has not been grasped by the public authorities; that the application of national welfare services to them is insufficient; and that support by local municipalities or civil society organizations do not go beyond the level of model pilot projects.
The guidelines are intended to apply to foreigners of Korean origin, workers and students from abroad as well as to those who have acquired Korean nationality through inter-country marriage and other procedures. Although foreigners in an irregular situation "are not in the scope of these measures as a rule, efforts shall be made to guarantee fundamental human rights for them, including by making use of private organizations".
One of the fundamental pillars of the guidelines is to make foundations for supporting foreigners by promoting the enactment of local ordinances and establishing foreigners' status as the one similar to the concept of "resident". The guidelines further seek to raise awareness among local authorities and communities and to delineate the roles played by the government, local municipalities and private organizations.
Local ordinances are to be enacted in October - November 2006. The guidelines urge local authorities to take prompt measures in the latter half of the year 2006 and early 2007, supported by the budget for the fiscal year 2007/2008. In order to ensure necessary financial resources, additional support from the national budget is being considered for "community integration programmes" and other projects, by including the number of foreigners in the computations for the provision of regular subsidies.
Proposal for Programmes to Promote Multicultural Coexistence, prepared by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications of Japan, was annexed to the press release issued by the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs.
· Press release issued by the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs [Korean]
· Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications of Japan, Proposal for Programmes to Promote Multicultural Coexistence [Japanese]