Six out of every 10 "native" Korean students do not consider biracial children born in Korea to be full-fledged Koreans, according to a recent survey released yesterday.
In the survey that questioned 1,725 elementary and middle school students in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province, only 40 percent of them perceived children born out of international marriages as Koreans.
Almost half of the students said they have difficulties in maintaining friendships with students from multicultural backgrounds.
Of them, 24.2 percent cited the difference in skin color as the reason for their problem with getting close to biracial children. It was followed by a fear of becoming a outcast among their fellow students with 16.8 percent and a feeling of embarrassment with 15.5 percent.
"Children of multicultural families who are born out of international marriages are likely to face difficulties due to fears of family break-up that result from prejudice and miscommunication within their family members," said Ko Seong-hye, an official of a youth foundation which conducted the survey at the request of the Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs.
"When they start going to school, they become the victims in many cases, being ignored and pestered by their classmates, which often makes it hard for them to continue to go to school," Ko said.
Most of the surveyed students also said they are able to accept the multicultural students as their classmates and felt comfortable having meals with them, but believe it was wrong to get married to a student with various cultural backgrounds, it said.
State education authorities pledged to spend 70 billion won ($50 million) by 2012 to support those students.
After-school classes will be expanded to help young children who have fallen behind in their studies and money will be allocated to educating pre-school children who do not go to kindergarten, officials said.
Together with short-term foreign residents, the number of expatriates living in Korea reached more than 1.17 million as of Sept. 30, figures from the Korea Immigration Service said.
That figure is projected to jump to 2.9 million by 2020, taking up more than 5 percent of the total population.
Of 144,385 people who have settled down in Korea due to international marriages, 76.5 percent of them live in metropolitan areas, while 23.5 percent reside in the farming regions, the ministry said.
By Cho Ji-hyun