▲ A Q&A session followed the main presentations. Photo by Kim Seonyeong
Jeju’s Foreign Advisory Committee (FAC) held a special session at the Jeju Forum on May 30 to identify how Jeju could better orient itself for a globalized world and increasingly international society.
Jeju’s Free International City status, proclaimed in 2002, has attracted some criticism due to the lag in policy and services for international residents. A panel was assembled by the FAC to discuss how Jeju could better internationalize and smooth the adaptation process for expats.
The panel comprised Jeju residents and experts in migration and social policy. Hyo-keun Han, deputy director of International Organization for Migration (IOM) Migration Research and Training Center (MRTC) outlined Seoul’s latest migration policy to the assembled audience. He was joined by Seoul Global Center, Steven McKinney who shared good practice from the capital.
McKinney was followed by Jeju Councillor Lee Sun-hwa who set out key steps for Jeju to become a Free International City. Then contributions from Jeju expats Dean Brown, guesthouse owner and FAC member, and Harold Dale, English teacher, were heard. Finally Beverly von Zielonka, head of senior and middle schools at Branksome Hall Asia offered her insights into how to mitigate culture shock for new arrivals.
Han was first to outline Korea’s 2nd Basic Plan for Immigration Policy. He stressed the effort that the government was taking to ensure international residents were fairly treated when settling in Korea.
▲ Jeju's international community filled the session to hear the debate. Photo by Kim Seonyeong
The national strategy largely reflects that of governments the world over. Each goal was given a thematic title under which a number of subtasks were set. In summary the thematic goals were:
Openness - Supporting economic stimulus and attracting human resources Integration - Social integration that respects shared Korean values Human rights - Preventing discrimination and respecting cultural diversity National security - The realization of a safe society for all Korean citizens and foreigners Cooperation - Promoting co-prosperity with the international community
Integration is a concern for the Korean government as it seeks to avoid social exclusion while accommodating increasing numbers of immigrants. The policy outlined reflected this and represented an attempt to balance social cohesion with diversity.
Steve McKinney arrived from Seoul to share some ideas about how to empower and include the local international community. The Seoul Global Center was established in 2008 by Seoul Metropolitan Government and now provides essential help to Seoul’s 523,000 international residents. McKinney feels that while slow, officials have taken heed.
“Koreans are often better than our home countries at listening to our problems,” said McKinney.
▲ Jeju's Foreign Advisory Committee in session earlier this year. Photo by Lu Jianwen
While it was clear the needs of Seoul are different from Jeju, the center’s success has been closely monitored by Jeju’s FAC. 43 percent of Seoul’s foreign residents are migrant workers and accordingly services include Korean language education and living orientation. The center also currently supports 14 business startups with consultations and office space in many languages: “people come to us when they don’t know where else to go,” says McKinney.
Lee Sun-hwa was next to speak; Lee is a Jeju councillor who has campaigned for Jeju society to be more open to socially excluded social groups. She highlighted that Jeju’s foreign population is increasing at a rate of 22.4 percent per year, almost double the mainland rate. In real numbers the foreign population doubled between 2008 and 2012, to 10,406.
Lee stressed the need to “embrace expatriates and harmonize with them.” Her central concern was that this increase in numbers had not been met by social policy changes, which were “insufficient.” Lee suggested four policy changes:
1 - A tailored policy which comprehensively tackles settlement support as part of a 10-year plan, addressing the diversity of experience, culture and needs among internationals residents. 2 - A one-stop service and Global Center for Jeju, in addition to a database of international residents. 3 - Employment of international experts in a full-time or part-time capacity for public positions relating to Jeju as an international city. 4 - Expansion of the FAC to establish a wider network of expatriates, professionals and opinion leaders to develop local social policy.
Following Lee, two international residents gave their own personal assessment on Jeju as a Free International City. Harold Dale, Jr, an English teacher in the public school system, felt that language was a common barrier for expats on the island: “...I don’t think or expect every Korean to [learn] English, but...there’s the option for language classes...The same can’t be said for the Korean language,” he said.
Dale, in collecting the views of many in the expat community, felt that more should be done to provide Korean language education at a time more convenient for workers and - echoing Lee - stressed that improved public relations and information provision, particularly related to health, would improve the quality of life for international residents.
Dean Brown was next to take the mic. Brown, like Dale, was mostly positive about life on Jeju but again felt that communication was a hindrance in settling more comfortably on the island. The “Big Mart” closure days could be better communicated, for example, as could signage and transportation information. Brown, an FAC member, also wants the Committee to be more representative of the whole foreign community on Jeju by including more migrant workers or international spouses.
“Culture shock” is a slippery concept to define and communicate and Beverly von Zielonka reminded the audience that although “you never get a second chance to make a first impression,” culture shock is felt most keenly in the second phase of resettlement. It was crucial, said von Zielonka, for all community members to provide help in the “adjustment process” as newcomers seek the familiar in the inherently unfamiliar.
Questions from the audience followed; concern was expressed that policy was likely to be ineffective when what was needed was deep-rooted cultural change. Kendra Pugh, a longtime Jeju expat, felt that acceptance of difference should be starting in the schools, where instead a culture of conformity is inculcated in Korean students.
While no immediate policy solutions were agreed upon, the session was a step in the right direction in giving foreign residents a voice on Jeju.
Host: Jeju Special Self-Governing Province Foreign Advisory Committee (FAC)
Jeju Forum for Peace and Prosperity 2013, May 30 17:20-1840, Room 6D
- FAC members
- Seoul Global Center members
- Jeju POE native English teachers and foreign residents
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