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  • The 400,000 Foreign Resident Era: Dagachi Seoul Master Plan

  • International Relations News SMG 8796

    In May 2014, in consideration of the “400,000 foreign resident era” of multiculturalism (one in 25 Seoul residents is a foreign citizen), the Seoul Metropolitan Government unveiled its Dagachi Seoul Master Plan, the blueprint of the city’s foreign resident policy for the next five years (2014-18).

    The plan is the first of its kind ever created by a local government on foreign resident policy. The Korean word “dagachi” in the title literally means “all together,” representing the plan’s goal of establishing diversity as a shared value in today’s era of multiculturalism. The plan aims to create a tightly-knit support net, particularly in areas that have not been addressed by Korea’s central government.

    For example, the Integrated International Cultural Center will be opened in 2018 to assist with the construction and establishment of cultural centers of non-OECD countries. It will be a landmark of the multicultural city that Seoul is rapidly becoming. Also, a second Global Center will be opened this July in Yeongdeungpo-gu. This year, together with the Seoul Global Center, it will extend its operating hours to include weekends, on a trial basis.

    In 2016, the Comprehensive Counseling and Support Center for Foreign Students will be opened, the first ever established by a local government, to support the needs of foreign students studying in Korea by providing support on issues from everyday living to employment opportunities. Also, one branch of the Seoul Institute of Technology and Education will be tasked with providing employment support for the children of foreign residents.

    For foreign residents who face linguistic, legal, administrative, employment-related, and various other obstacles, new programs and initiatives will soon be introduced, including legal translation and interpretation services, the “Seoul Correspondent” system, a registration system for prospective non-profit private organizations, and the Foreign Resident Job Fair.

    In order to regularly hear direct feedback from foreign residents and apply it to Seoul City policy, meetings will be held with representatives of foreign residents per nationality and/or immigration type. Also, “model foreign citizens,” individuals who have made contributions to their local communities, will be selected to receive the Mayor’s Award.

    The Seoul Metropolitan Government began developing the Dagachi Seoul Master Plan in April 2013. Beginning with academic services and after 52 negotiations with foreign residents, by nationality and immigration type, as well as civic groups and experts from academia and relevant organizations, the final version of the plan has come to focus on four major areas (proliferation of the value of human rights, cultural diversity, shared growth, and skills development) and includes 14 policy assignments, and 100 subordinate individual projects.

    1. Proliferation of the value of human rights – Foreign residents are our neighbors, not strangers: “City with a global citizenry”
    First, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will focus on establishing human rights-promoting policies for the systematic protection of foreign resident’s human rights, which have thus far been largely neglected. To promote the notion that “foreign residents are our neighbors, not strangers” throughout Korean society, efforts will be made to carry out a variety of training programs and campaigns to improve public perception of foreign residents.

    As an overall supervisory organization on human rights advancement policy, the Seoul Metropolitan Government Office of Women and Family Policy Affairs created the first-ever Foreign Resident Human Rights Team in February 2014. To make the team itself a pro-multicultural organization, two foreign government employees were included.

    To guarantee a minimum degree of housing rights, a total of four Foreign Resident Shelters (one per area) will be established and operated. Those eligible to use the shelters are foreign residents who are unemployed or in-between jobs and have no other contacts in Korea, as well as those who have no other place to live due to reasons such as family violence. These shelters will be financially supported by other shelters currently being operated by existing civic groups. As a mid to long-term goal, plans for a municipal foreign resident’s shelter will be made.

    To avoid human rights abuses and discrimination due to language barriers, the Seoul Correspondent system and legal translation and interpretation services will be established. The Seoul Correspondent is a Seoul-based job, for which 10 foreign students and female immigrants who are well-versed in Korean have been selected earlier this year. They will personally accompany those who require services to public organizations, hospitals, or any other location to ensure accurate communication. One can apply for Seoul Correspondent service through the Seoul Global Center.

    Legal translators and interpreters who have both familiarity with legal concepts and foreign language skills will be fostered. They will assist foreign residents involved in legal disputes who have no knowledge of Korean law and lack the necessary Korean language skills.

    The improvement of public perception of foreigners will be pursued in two ways: training and social campaigns. Municipal and local government employees and those who work at Seoul’s 42 foreigner support facilities will regularly participate in “sensitivity training of multiple cultures” in order to prevent the human rights abuses that frequently occur in the administrative process. The 42 facilities include one Global Center, seven foreign employee support centers, seven Global Village Centers, 24 multicultural family support centers, two Global Business Centers, and one Global Culture and Tourism Center.

    For ordinary citizens, cultural content tailored to each nationality on “eating, wearing, enjoying, and feeling Korea” will be developed to help the natural flow of cultural communication. Various online and offline media will be continuously utilized for citizen-participation events, such as campaigns and UCC contests.

    2. Cultural Diversity – An “advanced multicultural city” where foreign residents freely participate in policymaking and community service
    Second, a variety of exchange and communication channels will be established to provide foreign residents with opportunities to participate in policy planning and local activities. A sustainable multicultural ecosystem based on cultural diversity will be created through measures including the establishment of the Integrated International Cultural Center.

    In 2015, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will establish a “foreign resident representative meeting,” made up of appointed foreign resident representatives by nationality and immigration type. Four regular meetings (one per quarter) and frequent sectional meetings will be held with the attendance of relevant departments per policy and individual activity. Feedback from these meetings will be applied to the policymaking process.

    A “prospective non-profit private organization registration system” will also be introduced. This system will relax or apply the requirements of legal non-profit organizations in order to allow private organizations to operate on par with their non-profit counterparts. A way for these organizations to participate in municipal activities open to public contest will also be planned. This system was created in response to the difficulties in operating an organization due to the complicated and difficult registration procedure currently required for foreign non-profit private organizations. After registration as a prospective organization and an organization structure gradually comes into shape, consultation is provided to assist with registration as an official non-profit private organization.

    Foreign residents who have contributed to society through active participation in city government and local community activities will be presented with the Mayor’s Award for “Model Foreign Residents”. The award will be presented on May 20 (Together Day) of each year.

    To assist non-OECD countries that are unable to open their own cultural centers due to financial constraints, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will establish an Integrated International Cultural Center. Planned to be opened in 2018, the center will be promoted as a major landmark of a multicultural Seoul through cultural experience activities of many different nations. Currently, there are 13 nations (including Great Britain, Germany, France, Japan, and New Zealand) that have established cultural centers in Seoul (16 nations in Korea as a whole).

    Also, each month of the year will be designated as a month for foreign residents from a particular country (i.e. January: Month of Mongolian Residents of Seoul, February: Month of Chinese Residents of Seoul). On the month of a particular nation, events celebrating that nation’s holidays and commemorative days will be held in Seoul Plaza, as well as a Seoul town meeting for foreign residents of that nation.

    3. Shared Growth – A “city of partnered growth” that also shares social responsibility and duties
    Third, the Seoul Global Center, a comprehensive support facility that provides one-stop assistance regarding various difficulties experienced by the foreign residents of Seoul, will open a second branch to supplement its current location (Seorin-dong, Jongno-gu). So that these two centers may conduct their duties from the position of the Seoul citizen rather than merely top-down administration, partnered growth policies will also be implemented.

    The second Seoul Global Center will open its doors in July 2014 at Daerim-dong, Yeongdeungpo-gu. A combination of the existing Global Village Center in Yeongdeungpo and the Seoul Global Migrant Center, the new Global Center will be housed in a five-story building (four floors above-ground, one floor below-ground) with a total floor area of 936m2. The building includes a comprehensive counseling office and classrooms for foreign residents as well as medical facilities and a book café that are open to all local residents. By including conveniences for all residents, it is hoped that positive exchange between Koreans and foreigners will increase.

    To reflect the lifestyle of most foreign residents, who have more free time on weekends than weekdays, the weekday-focused operational schedule of the current Seoul Global Center and all 42 foreigner support facilities will be completely reorganized to focus on weekend-oriented operation.

    Also, the existing in-house learning format of Korean language education will be modified to include a wider variety of educational environments, such as online and mobile learning. The content of Korean language education will also be broadened to include not only basic Korean but also advanced-level classes to create a new educational system in which anyone can learn Korean regardless of time or location. In particular, advanced Korean classes will include a TOPIK preparatory course so that Korean language ability can be more effectively linked to employment opportunities. These classes will be conducted in all 25 districts of Seoul.

    In addition, liaisons will be established with private banks to provide discounts on wire transfer and foreign currency exchange commissions. The exact discount rate is currently being negotiated with relevant parties. For model taxpayers and those who actively participate in Seoul city government activities, commission fees will be waived entirely.

    So that foreign residents do not become negligent in carrying out their responsibilities and duties due to the differences in legal, social, and cultural systems between Korea and their native countries, three different programs will be carried out: 1) the operation of the Becoming a Citizen Academy, 2) fortification of taxpaying duties and provision of paid services for foreign residents, and 3) the expansion of foreigner volunteer crime prevention groups. The Becoming a Citizen Academy provides basic knowledge on Korean laws and systems that are mandatory for all Korean citizens, and will begin operation in 2015. To encourage increased tax payment, including the residence tax, cooperative systems will be established with the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Security and Public Administration. To promote the faithful payment of taxes, diligent taxpayers will be identified and provided with incentives.

    4. Skills Development – Workers, foreign students, foreign spouses, second-generation residents, Korean Chinese… “A highly competitive city”
    Fourth, foreign residents who wish to work or start a business in Seoul, and thereby achieve the “Korean dream,” will be provided with assistance through policies designed to strengthen self-reliance that are tailored for each nationality and immigration type.

    The Foreign Resident Job Fair will be established to help foreign residents of Seoul find jobs that fit their interests and abilities. For foreign workers who do not have time to learn Korean because they are currently employed, the Korean Class at Work program will be operated to teach practical Korean that is required in the workplace.

    Financial support for entrepreneurial activities will be provided according to the nature of the business, ranging from subsistence to high value added businesses. Professional consultants will be sent to the offices of subsistence entrepreneurs (i.e. food product retail, distribution) as part of the Global Shop Clinic. Also, the Foreigner Venture Contest will be held for foreign residents and students with start-up ideas that are based on technology or intellectual property. The winning team will be given an opportunity to enter an incubation office as well as points that can be used to acquire a technology entrepreneur visa.

    Beginning in 2015, the Foreign Worker Legal Support Officer system will be launched. It will handle all work related to lawsuits pertaining to unreasonable discrimination against foreign workers and cases of overdue or unpaid wages. Attorneys and certified labor consultants will be hired for this purpose and will work under the Seoul Foreign Resident Human Rights Team.

    The Comprehensive Foreign Student Counseling and Support Center will be established, the first of its kind created by a local government, and is planned to open in 2016. The Center will provide one-stop consultation on housing, college life, medical facilities, and all other necessary information for foreign students studying in Korea. The Center also plans to offer skills development programs that are geared toward employment, by providing assistance with writing personal introductions for job applications, Korean language classes, and job placement services.

    Also, the Foreign Student-Private Company Internship Program, serving to connect foreign students, universities, and private companies, will be established. Surveys are to be conducted regarding corporate demand for foreign student interns, after which foreign students are recommended to interested companies by their universities.

    For the 50,000 foreign spouses in Seoul, making up 12% of all foreign residents, assistance will be provided to help them find good quality jobs and educational opportunities for personal development. Jobs, such as tourism interpretation guides and Seoul Correspondent positions, which utilize their native language abilities, will be actively developed so that foreign spouses can find jobs that match their areas of expertise.

    Also, by utilizing private resources, university scholarships will be provided to foreign spouses and their children who attend elementary, middle, or high school or university in Korea. In 2014, 299 people will each be awarded a scholarship ranging from KRW 300,000 to KRW 3 million. In addition, foreign spouses will be provided free mental health services, and music therapy and art therapy programs that they can take part in with their children will be expanded in range and quantity.
    For the Korean Chinese population, which makes up over half (57%) of Seoul’s entire foreign resident population, expert development programs will be conducted to train experts who will act as a bridge between Korea and China in trade, culture, and other areas. Through public-private cooperation, the lawless behavior in areas with large populations of Korean Chinese residents will be improved at a fundamental level.

    The Korean Chinese Expert Development Academy, a program that is currently being planned, will maximize the advantages of Korean Chinese citizens (fluent in both Korean and Chinese and possessing a diverse cultural background). Practical training will also be provided for skills development in areas such as entrepreneurship, taxes, and law.

    To secure a basic atmosphere of order (i.e. illegal disposal of trash, public disturbances caused by excessive alcohol, and loud shouting and singing in the street) in Daerim-dong, Yeongdeungpo-gu, where over 40% of the residents are Korean Chinese, an extensive social campaign encouraging proper behavior will be carried out. Other policy tasks, suggested in policy meetings and through expert advisory meetings, that cannot be put into action at present (provision of child care support for foreign residents, welfare support for permanent residents equal to that for Korean citizens, obligation to include at least one foreign resident in public committees, creation of dormitories especially for foreign workers and students, etc.) will be dealt with separately as long-term review tasks. Depending on changes in the administrative environment, the viability of these policy tasks will be reevaluated at a later point in time.

    Current status of foreign residents of Seoul

    □ Number of foreign residents living in Seoul: 395,640

    ○ In descending order: China (including Korean Chinese), US, Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan, Canada○ At 57% of the foreign resident population, Korean Chinese make up the largest group of foreign nationals.



    □ Current status of foreign residents by nationality
    ○ Areas with high concentrations of foreign residents: (in descending order) Yeongdeungpo, Guro, Gwanak, Geumcheon, Gwangjin, Yongsan, Dongdaemunmap4_e

    □ Size of foreign resident population per year
    ○ Number of foreign residents has risen steadily for the past five years
    ○ Temporary decrease in 2013 due to the expiration of the working visit (H2) period


    Dagachi Seoul Master Plan: Major Points

    Four goals Related information Notes
    Proliferation of the value of human rights First-ever establishment of a Foreign Resident Human Rights Team in Korea Two foreign resident government employees
    Each area to operate one shelter for foreign residents Financial support from privately-operated shelters
    (New) promotion of the Seoul Correspondent, legal interpreters, and translators Facilitates communication
    Government employees and employees of 42 foreign resident facilities to receive “sensitivity training of multiple cultures”
    Cultural diversity “Foreign resident representative meeting” to be established in 2015 Independently develop/introduce policy agenda
    Establishment of Integrated International Cultural Center
    Formation of “Global Volunteers (tent.)” Talent donation, community service activities
    Introduction of “prospective non-profit private organization registration system”
    Mayor’s Award for “Model Foreign Residents”
    Construction begins on Integrated International Cultural Center with the goal of opening in 2018 First award ceremony to be held on Together Day 2015
    Designation of “Foreign Resident Month,” events and festivals held Cultivation of a landmark for a multicultural Seoul
    Shared growth Opening of second Global Center in Yeongdeungpo-gu in July
    Operating hours of Seoul Global Center and 42 foreign resident facilities extended to include weekends
    Establishment of online and mobile learning environments for Korean language education
    Discount services for wire transfer and foreign currency exchange commissions In cooperation with private banks
    Becoming a Citizen Academy begins operation in 2015 Education in basic Korean law and social systems
    Skills development Establishment of Foreign Resident Job Fair By September
    Global Shop Clinic to provide direct assistance/advice to subsistence entrepreneurs
    Foreigner Venture Contest to be held with various incentives provided
    Operation of Foreign Worker Legal Support Officer system Composed of attorneys and certified labor consultants
    Establishment of Comprehensive Foreign Student Counseling and Support Center First-ever by a local government
    Operation of Foreign Student-Private Company Internship Program Cooperation of foreign students, universities, and companies
    Scholarship support for children of foreign spouses Utilization of private resources
    1 Seoul Institute of Technology & Education to be focused on employment support for children of foreign residents
    Cultivation of Korean Chinese experts to act as a bridge between Korea and China

    Related Link: Multicultural family support project