On 25 October, a second lecture of the 20th ASEAN Lecture Series under the theme, ‘Social Integration in Multiculturalism’ was held by the ASEAN-Korea Centre (AKC). Ms. Joo-yeon Jang, Senior Research Fellow of IOM Migration Research and Training Centre was invited as guest speaker and discussed topics include: why the concept of coexistence and mutual respect in multiculturalism are important; what are the ways to achieve social integration; and how the advocation of multiculturalism contributes to the enrichment of Korean culture.

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Ms. Jang explained the cultural difference by adopting melting pot theory and mosaic theory. The former was described with a cauldron. It contains the mainstream taste that is founded as acceptable to everyone sharing the same culture. A mixture of any culture culminates in one dominant feature and this consolidates strong cohesion among the members of society. Usually, the melting pot theory suggests that quality of life is improved and minorities can enjoy possibilities of success, because as long as they share the accepted commonalities, they are considered as part of the mainstream community. On the negative side, cultural identity disappears and the whole community becomes intolerant towards the different culture. For instance, many nutritional ingredients can be cooked in Budae Jjigae pot. If one person puts a sweet jelly because it is their culture to cook in such manner, the sweet taste of jelly is unlikely to be welcomed and there can be an atmospheric exclusion with growing antipathy to the culture of jelly.

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Another theory is mosaic theory or sandwich theory. Each ingredient in salad has its own fresh taste and the combination of those distinctive tastes is served as a salad. It is like a jigsaw puzzle with many pieces of culture. Society with high level of tolerance is more lenient to the difference and cultural diversity. It is a kind of belief that each piece of culture has its own function for the whole picture of society. On the other hand, they highly maintain diverse cultural norms and the integration process is slow. It may cause friction between neighbourhoods if they refuse to accept one another.

In the last of the lecture, Ms. Jang talked about ‘Find Your Identity’ game by suggesting ‘Potato Speak’ game. In the potato game, participants have to find features of potatoes. Group A finds common features and Group B finds differences by comparing two given potatoes. The result demonstrated that Group B was more likely to trust the others and tolerate the differences.

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Ms. Jang concluded that “ASEAN-looking Korean people were not mistaken as foreigners in the past. Only those with traditional Western-looking, and blonde and light brown hair were thought as foreign people. Nonetheless, these days, if anyone with ASEAN-looking Koreans walk around street, we see them as aliens and speak to them in English language. Here are questions we must contemplate: what is Korean like looking? What is foreigner like looking? How can you judge that someone is not Korean by looking at their face? If we understand the differences and accept them as part of normal day-to-day living, our society will become more safe and integrated.

Next week, a third lecture of the 20th ASEAN Lecture Series under the topic, ‘The Rise of Islamic Economy in Korea’ will be delivered by Ji-hyeok Lee, Senior Researcher of Seoul National University Centre for Social Sciences.

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