The Foreign Advisory Committee, here in its Steering Committee, was created by the provincial government to bring together the Korean and international communities on the island. Photo by Lu Jianwen
The Foreign Advisory Committee, created last April, is charged with bridging the divide between the international community and Korean officialdom to improve life for Jeju’s international residents; If Jeju really is going to the world, then the semblance of movement is essential.
The FAC has three subcommittees: tourism; residence and infrastructure; and adaptation to Jeju society. Through these international residents have the opportunity to participate in the policy-making process and the Jeju governor has agreed to “positively make an effort” to reflect its advice in provincial policy.
At the first quarterly Steering Group meeting of the new year, Chairperson Chung Dal-ho recognized the difficulties that are faced.
“Globalized Jeju is what the government aspires to, but it cannot be done at the level of Hong Kong or Singapore. It cannot be attained overnight,” said Chung.
The FAC recently visited the Seoul global center and Yeonnam global village center to learn about how other authorities have worked with migrants and international families and Committee members are adapting their programs to Jeju’s particular needs.
In December it held the “For a Better Life in Jeju” workshop and the major event this year will be at the 8th Jeju Forum, where a “How to Globalize Jeju” seminar will seek to bend the ear of local officials.
Korea, since its rapid development in the latter half of the twentieth century, has become a destination for both skilled and unskilled migrant workers. It has also seen an increase in international marriages and in numbers of international students, rapidly making it a multicultural society.
The international population on Jeju, despite being just 1.5 percent of the total population, grew by 22 percent between 2011-12 and is part of this national trend. The FAC represents a proactive step by the provincial government in addressing the cultural and institutional hurdles to integration that will become more obvious as these numbers grow.
In its first full year of operation, the FAC has many obstacles to overcome, not least the scepticism among some international residents. Chairperson Chung is undeterred: “Skeptics? There are no skeptics among the Committee and we are all committed and very serious about realizing a global Jeju.”
The FAC is producing a guide for all foreign residents of Jeju and is improving English language services on the provincial government’s website: “we will try to achieve these this year,” said Chung. This is in addition to plans to improve road signage across the island and medical services for international residents.
Despite the desire for change, it remains to be seen whether the Committee can influence policy decisions in the provincial government and Chung sought to dampen expectations that such changes were possible.
“This committee is just advisory, we are not a committee of the kind that can enforce decisions. At the moment we are just trying to gauge the needs of the foreign community,” Chung said.
The Committee is seeking the input of the international community on Jeju as it seeks to set out its plans for its first full year ahead. Contact between the Committee and the community is crucial, Chung stressed.
“An example was the workshop last December that was open to all foreigners. These kind of workshops are the channels through which foreigners can get their voices heard by the Committee,” said Chung.
Communication and aspiring to be an international city is a central concern of the Committee. Vice Chairperson Won-hee You vocalized her concerns that they should not just discuss ideas, but “gather more voices about what’s working and what’s needed.”
Marsha Bogolin, Chairperson of Adapting to Jeju Society , believes that many of the barriers of wider society are reflected within the Committee itself, but that progress is being made: “Through the FAC committee itself, we are...bridging the culture and language barriers together, especially in meetings of smaller numbers,” she said.
Although differences in language and culture are still being overcome, the FAC is treading new ground as it seeks to smooth the passage to a global Jeju. The support of both the provincial government and the international community will be crucial if it is to achieve its goals in the year ahead.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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