The situation of refugees in Japan

by Kim Jina

In the rush of globalization, Japan consists of less than 2 percent of foreigners (they are mostly Korean and Chinese). By contrast Japan consists of more than 98 percent of Japanese. Like a reflection of this, the average annual number of recognized refugees in Japan is very small. It is less than 1 percent. According to a report researched by the Immigration Bureau of Japan, about 2,500 asylum seekers came to Japan in 2012 and only 18 of them were accepted as refugees with legal status. It is lower than 1 percent. On the other hand, the United States, Canada and even South Korea have higher acceptance rate than Japan, 53 %, 44.6% and 11.7% respectively. The irony is that even though Japan has a major economic power, Japan has the lowest refugee acceptance rate. Japan is supposed to make more contributions to international society than other countries which have less economic power. Japan should admit more refugees so that Japan could serve as an example of how to cope with the progress of accepting refugees to other Asian countries and even international society.

Refugees including asylum seekers desperately need help from international society. Most of them are forced to leave their home countries or they have no choice but to flee their home countries. They lose their home, job, family and even some documents or something as an evidence of that they are in serious trouble. They are inevitably coming to other countries with almost nothing. At first, helping them to find a job and house as well as providing financial aids might be the best way to support refugees when they come to new countries. However, before supporting them, the legal resident status should be given to them, so that they are able to receive health insurance service, find a job and go to school.

Of course, it would be difficult to give every asylum seekers came to Japan the legal refugee status, but it is possible to provide them more opportunities to have legal status. Even if they are granted legal refugee status, most of them are struggling to find a job. There are only few people who have legal refugee status in Japan. Nevertheless, most of them are in unfair conditions. However, Japan has good example of how to support refugees. Uniqlo, one of the major apparel companies in Japan, provides refugee Khadiza Begum an opportunity to work at Uniqlo through a Uniqlo program. To admit more refugees in Japan, the Japanese government should encourage major companies to provide refugees more chance to work like Uniqlo. In addition, Japanese people should try to change the way they think about refugees. However, the most important thing to accept more refugees in Japan is that the Japanese government should make the immigration policy easier to get legal status. With the efforts mentioned above, it is expected that the number of refugees in Japan could be increased.

Multiculturalism in South Korea

by Youngim Kim

Unlike the U.S, South Korea tends to be a homogenous country and just permitted the overseas tip in 1981. However, since South Korea became a member of OECD, the migration of people from China and Southeast Asia in pursuit of better living has increased. I found the situation described from the US articles is somewhat similar to multicultural issues in Korea. South Korea has intensely developed intellectual and high skilled industry through immersion education system. Koreans consider many undocumented Chinese and Southeast Asian dayworkers as potential criminals. Most of them are rejected by Koreans and also experience discriminative treatment in terms of human right and basic wages. In spite of the multicultural policy by Korean government, immigrants and Koreans are hostile to each other.

Unlike the US-Mexico example, one growing part of immigrants in Korea can be classified as intercultural marriage between Korean men and foreign women from elsewhere in Asia in the country side. Korean men living in a rural community who are the majority of Korean women try to avoid marrying with, cannot help marrying through an arranged match with women from poorer country to carry on a family lineage. Though foreign women who married with Korean men can have Korean visa, the children born through such kind of international marriages usually feel a sense of alienation and have an identity crisis. The government policy also still does not support them even after the settlement. Most of foreign women living in the countryside of Korea have been forced to assimilate to traditional Korean culture, which is supporting husband’s parents and also doing traditional women’s work. The people who try to maintain and teach their culture to their children are still a minority. Moreover, the majority of Korean is against multicultural policy because they think foreigners disturb public peace and order, even though they know nobody of immigrants who committed a crime.

Of course, Chinese and Southeast Asians are not all of immigrants in South Korea. However, the discrimination toward foreigners depends on their race and language. Like Japan, Caucasians speaking English are the most welcomed people. In the global society, I think we cannot change this current flow, what is international mobility. Korean should change their attitude toward foreigners from a dichotomy or prejudice like “the foreigner” and “Korean” to cordial cultural exchange for the development of both countries.