“Legislation of the law banning racial discrimination can’t be deferred”

“How was today’s forum? Weren’t you hurt or surprised due to the thretening atmosphere before the opening of the forum?” Rep. Jasmine Lee of the ruling Saenuri Party asked two immigrant foreign ladies who were taking picture in the lobby on the heel of the forum on multicultural policy held at the National Assembly on July 10.

Ms. Lee Ha-na, 32, who came to Korea through a marriage from Vietnam five years ago replied nothing with only a vague smile on her face. Her friend Maiti Huen, 32, who stood beside Lee showed the same reaction at the question. It was not because they counldn’t make themselves understood in Korean.

They seemed somewhat being repressed. It was the same feeling I had when I met a Chinese immigrant working at a ward office in Seoul the other day. There seemed to be quite few that she could do at her own will when she said that she had to get permission for interview.

The immigrant women are still living here with a sense of being constrained and have no confidence. It should get better as time goes by, but actually, it gets worse. The situation is not confined to immigrant women. It is the same for immigrant workers and their children.

It was embarrassing to see people who raised their voice, saying that “we are opposed to the multiculturalism” during the forum. They had to keep a minimum level of ettiquette in such a forum held at the National Assembly.

Their rude attitude made people wonder they could have done the same thing even at a forum, promoted by other Korean members of parliament not Jasmin. It seemed to be an undisguised demonstration to claim that they can’t accept Lee Jasmin as a member of the Representatives and as a real Korean.

A dozen of immigrant women attended the forum. But, they never tried to say anything in the forum. What they learned while living in Korea may have been that to keep silent is the best way to remain alive in the Korean socity.

That’s why the congratulatory speech by Rep. Park Byung-suk, vice speaker of the National Assembly, in which he said “I hope the day come soon when those from the multicultural families become the President, Prime Minister and cabinet ministers of this country,” sounded hollow.

The first thing we should do to improve the life of immigrants here is to educate Korean people from the kindergarten to respect all people equally. That must be followed by the institutional support like the legislation of the law prohibiting racial discrimination.


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