On December 18, 2015, Seoul Metropolitan Government launched the “Foreign Residents Council,” a body comprised of foreign residents that was created in recognition of Seoul’s transformation into a multicultural city with 460,000 foreign residents living among 10 million Seoul citizens.
Launched in celebration of the UN’s International Migrants Day, the Foreign Residents Council is an advisory group tasked with conveying the opinions of foreign residents in the formulation and implementation of Seoul’s policies for foreign residents in an effort to resolve any difficulties experienced by foreigners and shape Seoul into a city that embraces its growing diversity.
The first Foreign Residents Council will be composed of 38 people from 23 different countries who will serve as active members of the council for three years. Specifically, the council is made up of eight residents from Europe, six from China, five from Central Asia, four from South Asia, three from Southeast Asia, three from the U.S., three from Vietnam, and six from other countries around the world.
By forming subcommittees, the Foreign Residents Council will collect opinions, discuss agendas, and directly propose policies related to Seoul’s foreign residents to Seoul Mayor Park Won Soon at the city government’s general meetings.
Initial candidates for the Council were selected through a process of open recruitment that accepted applications from foreign residents over 18 years of age who have resided in the Republic of Korea for over a year and in Seoul for over six months. The final members were selected by a selection committee in consideration of their nationality, status of stay, type of visa, sex, and various other factors.
For the establishment of the Foreign Residents Council, Seoul Metropolitan Government created a promotion agency made up of ten experts from academia and research institutes and sought reasonable ways for the Council to serve as a body that effectively represents the foreign residents of Seoul. In addition, the city government held a couple of briefing sessions for foreign residents, communities, and related groups to gather their opinions and engage in discussions.
Seoul Mayor Park Won Soon explained, “Although one out of 22 Seoul citizens is a foreign resident, they had no way of participating in the city’s policy suggestion or implementation process.” He added, “We will continue to support our foreign residents through the Foreign Residents Council so that they can become an integral part of the city’s administration.”