November 22, 2012 12:50
The number of children born to multicultural families is rising fast amid the country's chronically low birthrate. Statistics Korea on Wednesday said they accounted for 4.7 percent of all newborns in the country, or one in 20, up 0.4 percentage point from a year earlier.
The rise brings concerns since social conditions tend to be unfavorable to multicultural children, especially at school, and integration is in its infancy.
Children with non-Korean mothers often experience language difficulties and have trouble catching up at school.
According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, 18.6 percent of two-year-olds with multicultural background develop language skills more than six months later than their counterparts whose parents are both Korean. The figure soars to 67.2 percent among six-year-olds, with 18 percent of them suffering a full-blown speech deficiency.
"The number of multicultural families will continue to grow," said Prof. Lee Hak-chun of Donga University. "Unless the situation improves, it will highly likely cause conflict in society."
There are calls to help them integrate better. "Teachers are among the first members of society these children encounter, but in many cases, they do not understand the kids," said Lee Hyun-jeong who heads an organization supporting multicultural families. "Teacher qualification tests need to include an evaluation of their understanding of multiculturalism."
Meanwhile, 73 percent of cross-cultural marriages last year were between a Korean man and a foreign woman. Chinese women accounted for 30.3 percent, followed by Vietnamese (25.2 percent), Filipinas (6.9 percent), Japanese (3.7 percent), and Cambodians (3.1 percent).
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