A survey by the government shows less support for ethnic, religious and cultural diversity in Korea than in other countries, but also less negativity toward foreigners. The survey was released amid flaring xenophobia after the election win of Philippine-born Jasmine Lee as a Saenuri Party lawmaker and the murder of a Korean woman by an ethnic Korean from China.
The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family conducted the month-long survey of 2,500 Koreans in December last year about their views on multiculturalism. Comparison of the results with international data, including Eurobarometer and the European Social Survey, shows significantly less acceptance among Koreans of cultural diversity than among Europeans.
Only 36.2 percent of Koreans supported cultural diversity compared to an average 73.8 percent in 18 EU countries.
But some 39.4 percent of Koreans said there are limits to how much they are willing to accept people from other ethnic backgrounds and cultures, which was lower than the European average of 68.9 percent. And only 30.2 percent of Koreans felt that foreigners are taking away jobs, compared to the European average of 59.4 percent.
Far fewer people in Korea than in Europe felt an increase in the number of foreigners would lead to rising crime (35.5 percent) or strain state coffers (38.3 percent).
"Koreans have a simpler and more positive view of multiculturalism than Europeans because they haven't been exposed to the issue as long as Europeans," said Seol Dong-hoon, a sociologist at Chonbuk National University. "Recently, the dark side of multiculturalism has come to light due to a grisly crime, but we must be careful that these incidents do not lead to xenophobic responses."