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S. Koreans more accepting of immigrants than before: poll

All Headlines 14:08 March 14, 2016

By Park Sojung

SEOUL, March 14 (Yonhap) -- South Koreans have become more accepting of immigrants than four years ago, but there are still rooms for improvement, a government survey showed Monday.

The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family said it has developed an index measuring the level of people's open-mindedness toward multicultural members of society. It takes into account eight factors, including whether the person perceives himself or herself as a global citizen and willingness to befriend a foreigner.

South Korean adults scored 54 out of 100 points on the index in a survey conducted between September and November, up 2.8 points from four years ago, the poll designed by the ministry and conducted by Gallup Korea showed.

The younger the respondent, the more likely he or she was to be open to other cultures. Adolescents scored 67.63 points, followed by those aged 20-29 with 57.70 points and those in their 30s with 56.75 points.

Participation in cultural events positively correlated with cultural tolerance. Those who have been educated on multiculturalism just once scored 56.29 points, but those who took such courses three times scored much higher at 64.03 points.

Compared with other developed countries, however, South Korea was behind in cultural tolerance. For instance, some 60 percent of Koreans agreed that more jobs should be given to Korean nationals than others during recessions, according to the World Value Survey conducted from 2010 to 2014. Americans and Australians were more or less divided on the subject, with the Swedes showing the greatest tolerance with 14.5 percent.

The least tolerant groups in Korea were those who have immigrants as neighbors and those who work mostly with immigrants. That's because sharing a living space and competing for jobs probably reinforces a negative image of immigrants, the ministry said.

With more than 820,000 members of multicultural families and 1.7 million foreigners in South Korea, "moving towards a multicultural society has become the natural course of Korean life," Gender Minister Kang Eun-hee said in a statement. "True social integration happens when no one gives a second thought to the word 'multiculturalism.'"

The minister vowed to implement policies specific to each demographic to better engage the people and expand programs that increase exchanges between immigrants and Koreans.

Some 4,000 adults aged 19-74, as well as 3,640 adolescents in middle and high schools, were interviewed for the survey, which is the first Statistics Korea-licensed study on the subject. It had a Cronbach's alpha of 0.91 for adults and 0.94 for adolescents, meaning the scales used in the survey are highly reliable.

sojungpark@yna.co.kr
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