Migration will be part of Korea’s future: IOM chief

Amy Pope, director general of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), speaks during an interview with The Korea Times at the IOM's Seoul office, Wednesday. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk

Accepting migrants will become a part of Korea’s future, according to Amy Pope, director general of the International Organization for Migration (IOM). She stressed that the narratives about migrants should be reshaped to portray them as essential members of society, beyond merely meeting labor needs. “Migration will have to be part of Korea’s planning for its future. It is a country that does not have a long history of migration. So working with communities that are hosting migrants to make sure they are well integrated and understand the culture so that they can become part of the society here is critical,” Pope said in an interview with The Korea Times during her visit to Seoul, Wednesday. The visit marked Pope’s first official trip to Korea since assuming her five-year term as the head of the U.N. immigration agency in October. She is the first woman to lead the organization in its 73-year history. “It is also important to attract some of the best talent across a wide range of skills … making sure [Korea] can access talent from across the range, and doing so in a way that advances the government’s key national development objectives,” Pope said .She called for a transformation in the discourse on migration, moving away from viewing migrants as a “group of foreign nationals addressing labor needs” to a narrative centered on “making migrants and their families part of the local community.”

Pope’s message resonates with Korea’s strengthened efforts to attract more migrants to address a shrinking labor force amid the rapid population decline. The latest data from Statistics Korea released on Wednesday showed the nation’s fertility rate dropped to a historic low of 0.72 in 2023, down from 0.78 the previous year. The quarterly rate even fell to just 0.65 in the last quarter of 2023. While Korea has become a popular destination for unskilled workers, especially through a government program that brings in tens of thousands of temporary foreign workers mostly from Southeast Asian countries, attracting skilled foreign workers remains a challenge. Pope suggested that providing international students with longer stay opportunities could be an effective strategy for retaining them once they complete their education in Korea.” People who are coming in to study to get their degrees within Korean universities are being exposed to the culture and the language over the period of their studies. Those are people you want to retain in the country to keep them here once they already know what their communities look like,” she said.

She recommended expanding opportunities for migrants to obtain long-term visas.” Having too many short-term visas can actually work against the government’s goals and having better migration practices,” she said. “When you have someone who knows Korean culture, language and the workplace, you don’t want them to go and work somewhere else and lose all the years of investment that have already been made. “The migration expert also advocated for family-based immigration, which would significantly help foreign workers integrate more easily into the local community. “When you’re only recruiting single migrants who come and get separated from their families, sometimes they have less of a commitment to their community. But when someone brings their families, for instance their children, they then become interested in the neighborhood as a whole. 스포츠토토존 Children can often be the bridge between the migrant and the host culture,” she said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *