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Book and Article

Native Koreans’ Attitudes toward Immigrants in Ethnic Enclaves

by 사용자 SNU Sociology 2020. 1. 7.

Author
Hyomin Park (Assistant Professor, Dep. of Sociology. Seoul University)
Seokho Kim (Professor, Dep. of Sociology, Seoul National University)
Sanglim Lee (Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs)

Source Korean Party Studies Review. No.15(2). 2016 (link)

Abstract

The objective of this research is to examine the attitude towards immigrants and migration policies among South Korean natives residing in ethnic enclaves in Seoul and Kyeonggi areas. Based on the empirical data, we argue that studies on migration should focus more on settlement of immigrants.

It already has passed one generation since the influx of immigrants into South Korea, and the number of immigrant increase fast. Based on that, the immigrants in South Korea build their own communities by establishing ethnic enclaves. This draws much attention from researchers on immigrants’ living condition and characteristics of the enclaves.

Current study views that those enclaves are the front line where interaction between immigrants and native Koreans occurs and attempts to examine the attitudes among the native Koreans toward immigrants and migration policies.

The results reveals that people who are living in the ethnic enclaves are more likely to evaluate their living environment poorly, migration policies that support immigrants negatively, and more likely to be opposed to increase of the number of immigrants. They also shows higher social distances to all foreigners than those who are not living in the enclaves. OLS regression shows lower quality of neighborhood environment rather than everyday interaction with immigrants affect the social distance among people in the enclave.

The results suggests that future research on immigrants needs to expand its scopes to provide us with better understanding on the current situation in South Korea regarding immigration.

KeyWords | ethnic enclave, immigrant, social distance, slum

Increasing Immigrants and ethnic enclaves in South Korea

A generation has already passed since immigrants began to enter South Korea, and the absolute number of foreigners living in Korean society has significantly increased sharply over the past decade. Immigrants who have settled in Korea are incorporating their native culture and especially forming 'enclaves' within a certain area where they gather to maintain and develop a specific national culture.

Consequently, some regions are already facing a full-fledged multicultural situation as the proportion of foreigners exceeds that of the social minority. Ethnic enclaves are contact zones that play an important role in determining perceptions of immigrants and members of the existing society toward each other, a space that measures whether the two groups will be able to live in harmony with unity.

In contrast to the relatively large number of studies done on immigrant communities in South Korea, the study of the residential environment itself is insufficient, and the study of the views of Koreans living in the surrounding areas is particularly lacking. The era of 'migrant society' begins when the proportion of foreigners is over 10 percent of the population. Therefore, it is time to start preparing for a multicultural society in earnest, as the sharp increase in foreigners living in South Korea is likely to accelerate for the time being. The authors looked at native Koreans living in and around ethnic enclaves and their attitudes toward foreigners, unlike previous studies that focused on immigrants or studied the perception of the general public in terms of the relationship between migrants and native people in general.

The communities, organizations and economic infrastructure of foreigners are fully mature enough, especially in areas where Korean-Chinese are gathered (Park Sehun 2010) in South Korea. The chances are very high that these areas will develop into permanent ethnic enclaves, growing from the voluntary organizations to political interest groups. Thus, the ethnic enclaves are like contact zones where two different cultures clash and their social integration is taking place (Kim Seok-ho et al. 2011; Kim et al .2015; Pratt 1990). The meeting between the two cultures here has a two-sided characteristic that while it may be a focal point for the integration between the entire immigrant community and Koreans, it could also be a starting point for conflict between the two groups.

According to previous studies on ethnic enclaves, ethnic or national enclaves have a two-sided impact on foreign groups and the society in which foreigners settle. Ethnic enclaves have several positive effects; each group can exchange information and provide settlement services, maintaining cultural characteristics of each ethnic group, while providing cultural diversity to the entire society.(Elliott 2008; Lin 1998) On the other hand, enclaves are viewed as proof that minority groups have failed to adapt to the society they are trying to settle in. (Massey 1985) Many foreign cases imply that large-scale ethnic enclaves in big cities tend to be slummed largely because of low wages and low social status of immigrants. Thus, various social problems like the occurrence of inequality between foreigners and Koreans, various crimes in the slums, hygiene and education, and the inequality of foreign children growing there can occur in the near future.

However, while previous studies have paid attention to the formation and situation of ethnic enclaves by foreigners, not many have discussed the residential environment of foreigners and how their housing acquisition will affect the local community.

Analysis and Results

Therefore, to fill the gap, the authors analyzed the empirical survey data of Korean residents in the ethnic enclaves in Seoul and Kyeonggi areas to find out their attitudes toward immigrants. The data was collected by the KDI and the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs based on statistics on the current status of foreigners provided by the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs in 2015. The sampling unit was set to the 'dong'(neighborhood) by reducing the area scope to analyze the relationship between Koreans and foreigners with actual contact in detail. Of the 1,000 samples, 500 were sampled from concentrated residential areas and the remaining 500 from adjacent areas to see the difference between the area.

The authors also analyzed 2010 survey data from the "Korea General Social Survey," a nationwide social survey conducted annually by the Survey Research Center of Sungkyunkwan University, to compare the perception toward foreigners by people who do not reside in or near ethnic enclaves.

Analyzed responses on how much they agree or disagree with the immigration policy of the Korean government. The approval rating of general people for various policies that support and benefit immigrants was 2.348, much higher than those living in enclaves(1.713) or those in neighboring areas (1.714.)


The results of the analysis show that native Koreans living in or near the enclaves have a negative attitude toward migrants compared to those living elsewhere. People living in or around enclaves have much stronger anti-immigrant sentiment than those living in general areas. In all four aspects, - such as an assessment of the residential environment, support for policies for immigrants, aspiration for reduction of immigrants, and psychological attitudes toward migrants - these sentiments were verifiable.

Furthermore, a regression analysis was conducted to find out the determining factors of social distance between native residents in enclaves and each migrant group to see what caused the negative sentiment toward immigrants. The results showed that the low level of intimacy was not caused by direct contact with migrants, but rather by the so-called "slumming" phenomenon, in which the residential environment gets worse as migrants flow into the area.

Factors that are expected to affect social distance were included in the model. Social psychological variables - political attitudes, trust, and national pride -, social interaction variables - the number of contact migrants, whether or not they were contacted-, the environmental review of their residential area, and experiences or attitudes related to immigrants were included. Social demographic background variables such as gender, age, residential area characteristics, employment, education, and income were included as control variables.

The regression analysis has shown that the social distance toward all groups except Americans has a significant effect from the residential variable (whether or not they reside in an enclave), and the negative perception of the current residence increased more social distance toward migrants. Importantly, the results showed that the effect of the residential characteristics on social distance was different between ethnic groups. The residential effect was significant for social distance toward Korean- Chinese and Southeast Asians, but it was not statistically significant in the cases of North Korean refugees, Chinese, Japanese and Americans. The authors thus assert that they can assume that much of the social distance is mediated through the residential environment. The results suggest that the ethnic enclaves in South Korea are highly likely to be the center of social conflict between immigrants and native Koreans. One should note from the analysis that the number of regularly known migrants or face-to-face contact with them had little effect on natives' negative attitudes against immigrants. In other words, the social distance toward migrants is more likely to be shaped by the large influx of migrants and the surrounding environment being slummed, rather than caused by personal direct interaction. The fact that negative attitudes toward migrants are not caused by face-to-face contact implies that social conflicts may occur between 'groups' of people in residential areas rather than in their workplaces. Such negative attitudes are likely to be formed indirectly through the residential environment of enclaves as a medium. ​

Discussion

The authors suggested a new direction for the study on migrants. First of all, we should change our perspectives regarding immigrants from a labor-oriented perspective to a residents-oriented one. Scholars and the government officials should not focus on labor-related policies by simply considering migrants as temporary workers, but admit that they are members of the Korean society and prepare for a more long-term and active policy to prepare for their permanent settlement.

Secondly, it is time for Korean society to think about community-level social integration with immigrants, not personal level adaptation of immigrants. We should pay attention to the process of how migrants form enclaves and create a community within, and how this community interacts at a collective level with other native communities that have existed in the society.

Finally, it is time to consider the perspective of natives who were already living in Korea. Considering the number and diversity of immigrants in Korean society and the increasing settlement time, one-way policies that only focus on how to make migrants adapt to Korean society cannot effectively solve the problem of social integration between migrants and native people. It is time for policy-level action to be taken not only on how the natives adapt to the mass influx of migrants but also against the relative deprivation or heterogeneity that the natives may feel in the course of implementing the immigration policy.

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