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Korean migrants feel left out by Kiwis

Media release
25 October 2006

Korean migrants feel left out by Kiwis

Koreans living in New Zealand have told researchers they find it hard to get to know Kiwis, they feel rejected and almost all have experienced some kind of harassment.

The researchers, whose study was funded by the Families Commission’s Blue Skies Fund, interviewed 36 immigrants who arrived here between one and 23 years ago.

The report Korean Migrant Families in Christchurch: Expectations and Experiences by Canterbury University researchers Suzana Chang, Carolyn Morris and Richard Vokes, found that many of the migrants had come to New Zealand for their children’s sake.

“They wanted them to have access to good education, less school stress and they wanted the family to have a better life and future. For some, a better future meant their children would have greater success in Korea, or allow them to migrate beyond New Zealand to other Western nations, or have the chance to be someone different than would be allowed in Korea,“ says Carolyn.

Once in New Zealand, while most enjoy the more relaxed lifestyle, they said that they found few work opportunities outside of the Korean community, partly due to a lack of English skills, but also in some cases because of discrimination.

One woman, who achieved top marks in New Zealand teaching and maths examinations, finally gave up trying to find a teaching position, despite a reported shortage of qualified maths teachers.

The migrants also said they experienced harassment in their daily lives. The researchers say that without prompting many of the Koreans wanted to discuss the harassment they had experienced. This included being yelled at, one group of teenagers threw stones at a woman out walking, others had eggs thrown at them, some were sworn at, others reported racial insults.

The immigrants were split on whether they felt the harassment was racist – some thought it came from ‘low class’, ‘bad’ or ‘poorly educated’ people. Others were convinced their experiences were racially-based. There was also a feeling among some Koreans that the harassment was the result of other Koreans not trying harder to learn English and fit into New Zealand society.

As a result of discrimination and harassment, many Koreans have only been able to find social support amongst other Koreans and within Korean churches. They all wanted to get to know Kiwis and become part of society but the general feeling was that they had been rebuffed.

The researchers suggest strengthening local and national social and institutional support for new migrants. This could include seminars on their civil and legal rights in relation to harassment and racist abuse.

Families Commission Chief Commissioner Rajen Prasad says “Migrant families can be devastated by harassment and while it’s natural to seek support from their own circles this can mean they miss out on the opportunity to participate fully in New Zealand society. I believe most Kiwi families are hospitable and welcoming and I hope they are motivated by this report to make extra efforts to befriend the new migrants in their communities.”

The report, Korean Migrant Families in Christchurch: Expectations and Experiences, can be downloaded from the Families Commission website www.nzfamilies.org.nz or copies can be requested by email from enquiries[at]nzfamilies.org.nz.


ENDS

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