|Marriage immigrants take part in a session offering tips on being a parent of a child in school, at a multiracial family support center in Yeoncheon, Gyeonggi Province, in this file photo. / Courtesy of Ministry of Gender Equality and Family|
By Kim Bo-eun
The number of marriage immigrants in Korea has increased over the years, totaling 238,161 in 2015, according to the interior ministry.
By nationality, Vietnamese immigrants took up the largest portion of marriage immigrants (27 percent), followed by Chinese (21 percent) and Korean-Chinese (19.7 percent).
Over the years, the government has systematically assisted marriage immigrants, through multiracial family support centers and hotlines, helping them learn Korean and obtain the necessary information on their immediate needs such as acquiring nationality and employment.
A 2015 survey by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family shows 63.9 percent of marriage immigrants and naturalized Koreans are employed, which is higher than the average of Korean nationals.
However, the majority of them perform simple labor, followed by service work. Low wages, long working hours and language barriers are some of the difficulties experienced by immigrant workers.
The same survey shows over 30 percent of respondents lack friends and acquaintances they can discuss their difficulties with regarding work and child care or enjoy leisure and pastimes together.
Meanwhile, compared to the same survey conducted in 2012, the respondents said their Korean language ability improved, but still experience greater difficulties due to loneliness and raising their children and educating them.
The data indicates that marriage immigrants are in need of better long-term jobs, beyond immediately earning money for the family, as well as friends and social connections with whom to share their lives and concerns.
The 2015 survey showed the most sought-after government services were references to job openings, followed by assistance for their children’s studies.
To address these needs, the gender ministry-affiliated multiracial family support centers across the nation in 2015 started offering programs for marriage immigrants to help them map out their future, assist them in drawing up detailed plans and provide information on local government services.
The centers provide guidance for women depending on their needs _ whether it is as job seekers, school parents or members of the local community.
They offer the immigrants opportunities to explore fields they are interested in and visit related institutions. The women are also introduced to successful women in each of the fields, enabling them to get advice from them.
As of February, 5,129 women have taken part in the programs offered at 217 centers nationwide.
“The program aims to assist marriage immigrants who are experiencing difficulties in adjusting to life here, raising their children and seeking stable jobs,” said Yun Kang-mo, director at the ministry’s multiracial family policy division. “We will work to increase participants and strengthen the programs so that more marriage immigrants can stably settle here.”