Children from multicultural families are becoming a common sight in many Korean neighborhoods, with the Ministry of Public Administration and Security finding last May that there were 140,000 foreign spouses here, accounting for 16.2 percent of the total of about 640,000 foreign residents. Most, or 120,000, were women.
The number of children under 18 from such families was about 58,000, soaring from only 25,000 in 2006 and 44,000 in 2007.
Chinese Koreans accounted for the majority of foreign spouses, followed by Vietnamese, Japanese and Filipinos.
According to the National Statistical Office, foreign-born women accounted for 71.5 percent of spouses from overseas and men for 28.5 percent in multicultural marriages between 1997 and 2007. The majority of children or 57.1 percent were under six, and 32.2 percent were between six and 12, meaning children under 12 accounted for 89.3 percent.
Many of them find it difficult to fit in, often because they do not speak Korean well, are uncertain of their cultural identity and come from poor families. Most Korean men who marry Asian women are from rural areas, and the marriages often do not last.
Chun Kyung-soon, a senior fellow at the Gyeonggido Family and Women's Research Institute, conducted a survey of 798 fifth through ninth graders from multicultural families in Gyeonggi Province in which 62.7 percent of respondents said they had trouble adapting to life at school.