|Multiracial children pose for a photo / gettyimagesbank|
1 in 14 will have non-Korean background by 2040
By Lee Kyung-min
Korea needs to become more accepting of those with foreign backgrounds, a task that requires continued nationwide advertising and education campaigns to end discrimination, experts said Sunday.
Social cohesion will be best achieved through consistency in education and awareness-raising programs, backed by sensitivity training of not only children but also their parents and educators early on to fundamentally change their bias-oriented remarks and behavior, they added.
The recommendation followed a recent report from Statistics Korea that showed that by 2040 one in 14 Korean residents will be classifiable as foreigners or naturalized Koreans and the children of these categories. This forecast is accelerated by the rapidly aging population brought on by a record-breaking low birthrate over the past few years.
"It is a work in progress," Migration Research and Training Centre head Kang Dong-kwan said.
A growing number of people has become more open to the concept of foreigners being part of Korean society, and efforts from both the government and civic society should continue to ensure that being different should never justify discrimination, he said.
"The social perception was that foreigners were not and would never be a part of Korean society a couple of decades ago, but a lot has changed since then."
Fully embracing a group of people that look different from most Koreans even from a passing glance takes time, he said, and how they feel depends largely on how they are treated.
"We need to constantly remind ourselves that they are just like us, and should not let them feel isolated. This is why education is crucial."
The sentiment is echoed by Seol Dong-hoon, a professor of sociology at Jeonbuk National University.
"Overemphasizing what is and should be a negligible difference of a minority group for the purpose of discrimination is behavior that breeds ill will. It must be abandoned through better parenting and teaching," he said.
The statistics agency data showed the population total will drop to 48.57 million in 2040 after peaking at 50.02 million in 2021, and the number of people with foreign backgrounds will reach 3.52 million, or 6.9 percent of the population, up 62 percent from the 2.22 million (4.3 percent) in 2020.
The number of children from immigrants will soar to 700,000 by 2040, 2.5 times higher than 280,000 in 2020.
Those aged over 65 will double to 16.66 million that year, from 8.03 million in 2020. The age group will account for 16.1 percent of the population in 2020, but the figure will climb to 25.5 percent in 2030. Over one in three will be aged over 65 in 2040, as the figure tops 34.3 percent.
About 4.6 percent of the population will be aged over 85, up from 1.5 percent in 2020.
Only slightly over half, or 55 percent will be Koreans aged 15 and 64 ― statistically considered the economically active workforce ― with no foreign background in 2040, down from 71.5 percent in 2020.