The government said Monday it will provide more support to programs aimed at improving the living environment of the nation's foreigner-heavy neighborhoods, as some of them are showing signs of turning into slums with high crime rates.
The Ministry of Public Administration and Security said a government subsidy of 3.17 billion won (US$2.9 million) will be injected into 11 municipal offices across the country this year for their programs to improve neighborhoods with heavy populations of foreigners in their jurisdiction by building more street lights, surveillance cameras, parks, sports facilities and shelters for marriage immigrants.
The offices were chosen out of 39 city, county and ward offices in the country, where more than 10,000 foreigners live or account for 5 percent or more of their registered population, according to the ministry.
By region, the Siheung city government in Gyeonggi Province will receive 600 million won for a program to build shelters for marriage immigrants, and the Namdong ward office of Incheon, a port city west of Seoul, will be granted 500 million won to construct a park for multinational families, the ministry said. Another 500 million won will go to a program to expand an existing multipurpose sports facility in Yeongam, South Jeolla Province.
In addition, 140 million won will be used to set up more street lights in a foreign neighborhood in Seoul's southwestern Yeongdeungpo district and 100 million won each to install surveillance cameras in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province, and Gimhae near Busan, the government said.
The number of foreign residents in South Korea surpassed 1.2 million last year, according to government figures. A majority of them live in Seoul and its adjacent cities. But the growing influx of foreigners has turned some of their residential areas, particularly those located near metropolitan cities or provincial factory areas, into slums, resulting in more crimes than before and a lack of welfare facilities, officials said.
Since 2008, the government has provided financial aid to help municipal offices tackle such problems, according to the ministry.
"The government will come up with comprehensive mid- and long-term plans to quickly improve the living environment of neighborhoods heavily populated with foreigners," a ministry official said on condition of anonymity.