In the case of Korea, where human resources are one of its biggest assets and economic driving forces, the low birth rate is one of its great concerns for long-term development. As the aging population increases, coupled with the low birth rate, Korea is heading for a demographic cliff, referring to a sharp decline in the productive population (aged 15~64). Since the enactment of the “Aging and Low Fertility Society Act,” the Korean Government invested 100 trillion won over the past decade to boost its birth rate, which turned out to be in vain. Accordingly, some argue that Korea should actively engage in immigration policy as an alternative, like lowering the conditions for obtaining permanent residency and citizenship. However, considering Korea’s existing passive stance toward immigration, hastily opening the door to immigration will do more harm than good.
The severity of the low birth rate and aging population cannot be ignored. If the problems of the shrinking working population cannot be solved internally, then it is inevitable to accept more immigrants. But imagine a situation where more immigrants are pouring in than ever before. Would immigrants be able to integrate into a country which has been a homogeneous society ethnically, linguistically and culturally for so long? Korea certainly does not share the same path as the United States or Europe. For the United States, the establishment itself is based on migration. As for the European countries, they are also relatively more open to the immigrants, not only due to the European Union, but also through their long history of mutual trade and exchanges that has been going around the continent. In Korea, there are still many people with conservative thoughts towards immigrants and there seems to be a deepening social conflict over accepting immigrants. Also, the immigration policy means accepting them as one of its people, not a mere worker, and the number of multicultural families will naturally increase. However, there are still many existing tasks to be dealt with, including language difficulties, cultural conflicts, education and welfare issues.
One of the easiest solutions suggested to the population crisis is an open-door immigration policy. However, there are several conditions that should be preceded to minimize struggles and apprehension related to immigrants. The prerequisite includes a raised awareness of immigrants, institutional systems to help them settle in more easily, and a social safety net set up to prevent side effects of the policy. An open-door immigration policy may be a plausible step to take in the era of the population cliff. However the policy is like a double-edged sword, so it should not be pushed without thorough readiness. To that end, it is necessary to focus on the preparation process while it is publicized by the press and the government.
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