Korea scores 56/100, higher than the MIPEX average country (49). Immigrants in Korea face slightly more opportunities than obstacles for societal integration. Korea promotes a comprehensive approach to integration similar to the ‘Top 10’ MIPEX countries. But Korea falls short of the ‘Top 10’ because its policies only go halfway to actually guarantee equal rights, opportunities and security for immigrants. Korea would need to remove key obstacles and offer more targeted support across different areas of life.
These policies matter because the way that governments treat immigrants strongly influences how well immigrants and the public interact and think of each other. Drawing on 130 independent scientific studies using MIPEX, integration policies emerge as one of the strongest factors shaping not only the public’s willingness to accept and interact with immigrants, but also immigrants’ own attitudes, belonging, participation and even health in their new home country. Korea’s comprehensive approach can create a ‘virtuous cycle’ to continue to improve positive public attitudes towards immigrants. Internationally, the ‘Top Ten’ MIPEX countries treat immigrants as equals, neighbours and potential citizens, and invest in integration as a two-way process for society.
Korea is a leader in Asia. Immigrants in Korea enjoy more favourable policies than any other Asian countries included in MIPEX. Korea’s policies are similar to the average OECD country, but less well-developed than the policies in the traditional destination countries (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the US).
- Labour market mobility: Slightly favourable: While most legal residents can access self-employment, public sector jobs, and some general and targeted support, obstacles still exist for temporary workers and some family migrants to improve their skills and job status.
- Family reunification: Halfway favourable: Reuniting multicultural families in Korea benefit from a halfway favourable legal framework for family's reunion and integration. Sponsors can immediately apply to reunite with the nuclear family and, under certain conditions, with their dependent adult children and parents.
- Education: Slightly favourable: Korea leads most new countries of immigration in helping immigrant pupils enrol and succeed in all types of schools. All immigrant children in Korea have access to education. Under the Multicultural Family Support Act, multicultural families have access to language instruction and extra targeted support at every stage of their educational career.
- Health: Slightly unfavourable: The weakest area of integration policy in Korea is migrant health. While immigrants can be informed of healthcare access and services, their healthcare entitlements are weaker than in most countries. In contrast, under more inclusive policies in other countries, immigrants and non-immigrants end up with similar health outcomes in terms of their reported health, chronic illnesses, elderly diabetes and frailty and even mortality. Under restrictive policies, immigrants are much more likely than non-immigrants to suffer from these poor health outcomes.
- Political Participation: Slightly favourable: Korea is ahead of most new destinations in promoting the democratic participation of immigrants. Immigrants are informed nationally-funded immigrant associations and one-stop-shop services, consulted by Foreigners’ Policy Committees and able to vote, but not stand, in local and regional elections. Korea is one of the MIPEX countries denying foreign citizens the right to join political parties.
- Permanent residence: Slightly favourable: Eligible immigrants can become permanent residents after 5 years, as in most European countries. As of 2018, immigrants in Korea must be able to complete the social integration program or pass the comprehensive evaluation as part of their application for permanent residence.
- Access to nationality: Halfway favourable: Korea’s halfway favourable policies are slightly out-of-touch and inconsistent with its new reality as a country of immigration. Unlike traditional destination countries and the average EU country, Korea have not yet followed international reform trends in new countries of immigration to open up citizenship entitlements for children and dual nationality for all naturalising foreigners.
- Anti-discrimination: Halfway favourable: Discrimination protections in Korea are still rather weakly defined and enforced, Compared to Japan, Korea’s definition of discrimination is stronger; however, the mechanisms to enforce the law are just as weak in Japan and Korea, far below the standards in most countries.