▲ Visitors to Jeju’s attractions such as Spirited Garden are increasingly from across the world. Photos courtesy Spirited Garden
This is an advertorial for Jeju Free International City Development Center.
Although Jeju’s modest foreign population has made it hard to imagine the province as a Free International City, times are slowly changing.
While we are still no New York or London, provincial data released in July suggest that 19,903 registered “foreigners” now live on the island.
Up 27.8 percent jump on the previous year, foreigners now make up 3.3 percent of the total population of 630,832, just below the national rate of 3.4 percent.
Jeju is now home to 1.1 percent of non-Koreans in the country, broadly in line with its national population share.
Jeju’s foreign population has seen incredible 21.9 percent growth year on year since 2009 when the foreign population was 6,944; in comparison, the island's foreign population increased 4,335 in the last year alone.
Who is foreign?
Before you start expecting a spontaneous carnival down Jungang-ro, it is worth considering the composition of this “foreign” group.
The province includes all non-Koreans staying for more than 90 days in the country, as well as marriage migrants, naturalized Korean citizens (1,221) and Korea-born, dependent “multicultural” children (2,817). The latter two groups, Korean citizens, account for 20.3 percent of all foreigners on Jeju.
Chinese (including Korean-Chinese) and Vietnamese account for two-thirds of the multicultural population, which is defined as marriage migrants and naturalized spouses, a group that rose by 8.2 percent to 2,918.
Chinese nationals account for 47.6 percent of all non-Koreans (9,484) when Korean-Chinese (2,821) are included. The next largest groups are Vietnamese (3,100/15.5 percent) and Indonesians (1,336/6.7 percent).
In terms of immigrant classification, immigrant workers are the largest group at 30.8 percent (6,137), followed by marriage migrants at 10.3 percent (2,054 individuals), overseas Koreans at 8.5 percent (1,686) and international students at 4.8 percent (956).
Population growth all round
Jeju’s population itself rose to 630,832 by June, an increase of 9,282 on 2014, and by the year end it is expected to hit 640,000. This is around 3 percent year-on-year growth, with 13,000 additional residents expected by the end of 2015.
The foreign population is, therefore, increasing at a faster clip, fueled by growing investment, economic growth and the desire for more relaxed lifestyles.
Accordingly, the “Other” category, which includes investors, was up a massive 76 percent. The next big risers were Overseas Koreans, up 57 percent, and immigrant workers, up 17.7 percent.
Jeju was long a place of banishment, and it is only in the last few years that Seoulites have warmed to the prospect of island life.
The relatively clean environment and stunning scenery — Jeju is the proud holder of UNESCO World Natural Heritage, Biosphere Reserve and Geopark statuses — turns heads, but the increasingly convenient lifestyle is also a draw.
Jeju now has the conveniences expected of big-city life, seen in the coffee shops, international restaurants and a growing culture and arts scene.
Foreign investment has played a role and big projects include the Jeju Free International City Development Center’s (JDC) Healthcare Town and the Myths and History Theme Park. Once Gangjeong Civilian-Military Port and other projects are finished the population is expected to increase further.
One must not overlook the role of Jeju Global Education City in this growth either, meaning children no longer have to be in Seoul for a high-class education.
▲ Foreigners engage with local policymakers in the Foreign Advisory Committee. Photo courtesy The Jeju Weekly
With such growth, the province is seeking to eliminate any difficulties experienced by foreigners settling here.
As an indicator of its success, the Ministry of Justice announced in August that Jeju topped the nation’s 17 metropolitan cities and provinces for its foreigner-oriented policies.
Jeju earned the highest possible marks in 28 categories of the total 39 and received the second highest marks in another eight.
The province scored highly for its Foreign Advisory Committee which meets quarterly to ensure the improvement of immigration, transportation, tourism and other issues facing non-Korean residents.
Other commendable projects include seminars on improving living conditions for foreigners and a volunteer fire department comprising multicultural residents.
Since June 1, Jeju Special Self-Governing Province has also been supporting a foreign language call center (call 120 (064-120) between 7am and 10pm) operated by volunteers at BBB Korea.
The line is intended to improve living conditions for foreigners and provides consultation in 19 languages. In a month-long trial in April, most calls (66 percent) were information inquiries followed by complaints (23 percent). Topic areas included general administration (39 percent) and transport (28 percent).
The province hopes these measures can help Jeju society adapt to its internationalization at the same rate as people from around the world are choosing to make the island their home.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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