Candidates have plans for the foreigners, too
Last in a series on the candidates
originally published here: http://joongangdaily.joins.com/article/view.asp?aid=2883764
December 11, 2007
The presidential candidates are not just focusing on the Korean citizens during their campaign. They all pledge, if elected, to provide a better life for foreigners who live here.
With the number of foreigners in Korea topping 1 million this year, the candidates said they want to make their lives more comfortable, according to their official policies on the issue.
Their major concerns surround foreigners who marry Korean citizens. The number of foreigners who have a Korean spouse has jumped threefold in the past three years, according to the most recent statistics from the Justice Ministry.
That number has jumped from 34,710 in 2002 to 104,749 most recently. Thirty percent of them live in Gyeonggi Province, while 28.5 percent live in Seoul.
Front-runner Lee Myung-bak is most active in promoting his policies to non-Korean speakers. His camp is the only one to operate an English campaign Web site (http://english.mbplaza.net). Lee says there is a need to establish support centers for female immigrants, as well as separate support centers to help immigrant families settle here.
Lee Hoi-chang, an independent, advocates establishing a government bureau for foreigners to bring about a systematic change in handling such issues.
Chung Dong-young of the United New Democratic Party suggests all government Web sites, including the ones for the smallest provincial districts, be operated in several foreign languages.
Moon Kook-hyun of the Creative Korea Party says it should be easier for foreigners to get naturalized, while Kwon Young-ghil of the Democratic Labor Party says an immigrant committee should be created in city governments to hear the voices of foreign wives.
Rhee In-je of the Democratic Party has the most detailed ideas for foreigners living here.
He says that schools should be established that teach Korean for free in areas with a lot of foreigners. In regions where Korean language classes are not available, the government should give scholarships to foreigners so they can attend a nearby community college to take Korean courses, his camp said.
For foreign spouses who live in rural parts of the country, Rhee promises to provide separate financial aid for childbirth and for rearing the child, along with a free plane ticket to their home country for couples who have lived in such regions for more than 10 years.
By Lee Min-a Staff Reporter [email@example.com]