A little while back, in June, the Korean government legalized the visa-free access of Yemeni refugees to Jeju Island. Many fled their country because a ruthless civil war forced them to be part of it, pick up the gun, and kill people. At worst, the ongoing war estimated to decimate more than 51,000 civilians. Unable to withstand the pressure, more than 500 Yemenis anticipated Jeju Island as their asylum and immediately immigrated without a visa in advance, serving as a considerable reason for refugees to settle down in Jeju.
[Yemeni refugees waiting at Jeju community center,
[South Koreans protesting against asylum seekers,
South Koreans, on the other hand, criticize these asylum seekers nonetheless and still, countless backlashes are intensively spoken. Few weeks ago, a huge number of Seoul residents crowded in the streets and yelled for the safety of Korean citizens, attacking President Moon for his decision. Not on foot, half a million of South Koreans have already signed the petition to remove the Yemeni exiles. That is not the only concern. The Yemenis are currently asking for superior opportunities for their job employment, in which they are heading to Seoul, a capital of South Korea where it is prominent for a standard living with the preferable occupation. Furthermore, South Korea consists of 90% singular ethnic group, which is Koreans; this, make them reluctant about accepting diversity of foreigners. At the same time, unconventional phenomenon like racism and xenophobia are expanding, which can later lead to diverging conflicts. Additionally, the residents of Korea claim that they were never in colonial power nor ever captured inferior countries. Regarding the fact that Korea had long been a colony of another industrial nation, the citizens now question, “Why are we responsible for accepting asylum seekers?”
In order to know what other people think about this issue, I did an interview with an interviewee, Jiwon Choi, another junior attending my school.
Q: What do you think about the issue of Yemen refugees’ arrival in Jeju?
A: I think it is a conflict that needs a practical solution at this point. It is still a problem existing in Korea that could influence not only Jeju but the whole country.
Q: What are some negative or positive effects can it bring to our country?
A: In a bad way, it can take away the job opportunities available to Korean citizens. But, I also think it can also promote cultural diffusion and allow Korea to overcome xenophobia. I don’t think this issue always has downsides.
Q: What are some plausible solutions that can settle down the controversy?
A: I think it is the government’s role to do something that can help settle the issue. Even if the citizens keep protesting on streets and signing petitions, it wouldn’t bring a huge change unless the government acts upon it. There should be stricter laws and systems that can regulate the arrival by enhancing the process of identity submissions. ■
In person, I believe that the submission should be harsher since those fake identities are viral today. Many are concerned that there will also be people who, in the end, will create fake passports, information, and backgrounds. I agree with this viewpoint and definitely think that the assessment is lenient if it only analyzes a person through social media, drug tests, and more. Personally, I question: “Wouldn’t this conflict be an opportunity for South Korea to embrace varied cultures and grow as an industrial nation?”
Cheongna Dalton School
Minji Kang firstname.lastname@example.org
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