|Elderly people gather in Tapgol Park in central Seoul to socialize in this Sept. 23, 2019 photo. Korea Times file|
By Bahk Eun-ji
The government should change its immigration policy drastically in the face of the declining population, experts said Monday.
According to a paper titled "Searching for the Direction of Mid- and Long-term Korean Immigration Policy," published in the latest issue of the journal entitled Multicultural Content Research by Chung-Ang University's Institute of Cultural Contents, the establishment of a ministry in charge of managing immigration issues is necessary to implement comprehensive related policies.
Kim Yeon-hong, an official of the Human Resources Development Service of Korea who authored the paper, said, "The situation will become so serious that the nation's population will see a significant decrease in 2020, and the country, by 2030 will face national-security challenges due to a shrinking active military."
"In order to maintain the current size of the economy, the inflow of immigrant workers will be inevitable." Kim said.
According to data from Statistics Korea, the number of deaths from January to July of this year was 176,363 while the number of births was 165,000. The difference between the birth and death rates is particularly notable this year, indicating that the nation's net annual population has naturally decreased for the first time in history.
Kim pointed out immigration policies have to be taken care of under one integrated government affiliation in order to lay out a cross-sectoral policy addressing all non-Koreans residing in the country.
Policies on foreign residents here have been devised and implemented mainly by three ministries ― the Ministry of Justice is in charge of visa schemes; the Ministry Gender Equality and Family focuses on assimilating marriage migrants into Korean society; and the Ministry of Employment and Labor is in charge of migrant workers entering Korea under the Employment Permit System.
Kim stressed "the need to establish a short- to long-term policy on the extent to which we will accept these people in order to make use of them and how we will fit in with them in order to live comfortably."
In particular, he proposed setting up a tentatively named "immigration policy committee," serving as a control tower for overall immigration policy, to integrate five committees, including the current foreign policy committee, the multicultural family policy committee, the foreign workforce policy committee, the cultural diversity policy committee and the overseas Koreans policy committee.
He also suggested that temporary migrants should be included in the list of social integration policies, and that the status of skilled migrant workers should be changed gradually to professionals on E-7 visas in consideration of the human resources shortage.
Earlier, Yang Kyung-eun, a professor at Sungkonghoe University, also pointed out in his paper that migrant workers aren't covered by the government's integration policy, and that the agenda to integrate migrant workers into society has disappeared.
Lee Kwang-won, a professor at Sun Moon University, also pointed out that there are many things to improve in the operation of the Multicultural Family Support Center in the "Study on the Policy Measures of Korean Multicultural Families" published in the Korea Immigration Policy Daily in June.