12/11/2008, 00.00
SOUTH KOREA
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Seoul cuts funds to initiatives designed to help immigrants integrate

by Theresa Kim Hwa-young
Migrants’ Arirang festival, an annual event for tens of thousands of foreign workers, is in jeopardy. Funds for an immigrant women’s hotline also dry up. Activist slams the decision, claiming it is an attempt to undo the integration policies of the former government.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – Various government initiatives in support of immigrant integration could be cancelled or scaled back as a result of major budget cuts; this could jeopardise South Korea’s “multicultural society” idea, warns the Multicultural Open Society, citing a press release by Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism announcing that support for Migrants’ Arirang, which is celebrated in May, would be discontinued starting next year.

Established in 2005 the Migrants’ Arirang (pictured) is the most important event for immigrants. More than 40,000 foreign workers from more than a hundred countries participated in this year’s edition. The government contributed just over US$ 340,000 to the event. Now it could be drastically scaled back.

For Multicultural Open Society Secretary-General Lee Wan, the “Migrants’ Arirang is a symbolic event representing the social integration of immigrants.”

Thanks to public funds the foundation was able to print 2,800 copies of its multicultural guidebook, but it ended up receiving requests for up to 8,000 copies, he said.

For many immigrants the text represents a valuable tool to better understand Korean society in all its facets and thus favours their integration.

“Behind the ignorance of more than ten years of experience accumulated by civic groups,” there “is a political logic of viewing all multiculturalism projects as a legacy of the previous government,” said Joint Committee with Migrants in Korea General Secretary Lee Young; hence a desire “to eliminate them.”

An ‘immigrant women’s hotline’ and support for local immigrant programmes are among the initiatives that might also have to close for lack of funds.

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