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Jeju government considers giving foreign residents a voiceA proposed Foreign Advisory Committee would protect foreigners' rights
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승인 2011.07.05  11:30:13
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▲ Forum discussants present their ideas. Photo by Darryl Coote

[To read the preliminary announcement of a proposed Foreign Advisory Committee, click here. -- Ed.]

Jeju, “Free International City” – ?

The Free International City Bureau is a division of the provincial government dedicated to the goal of globalization and open borders for trade and travel.

“I'm embarrassed to admit that we don't really know yet how to make this a reality,” said Director Park Hong Bai in a recent forum. “We need the help of foreigners.”

There is increasing discussion in Jeju province regarding the need for a unique model – known as “glocalization” – rather than the emulation of free international cities such as Hong Kong or Singapore. This objective could more easily be met through the assistance of residential foreigners.

Last November, Jeju Weekly publisher Song Junghee began to develop the idea of a foreign advisory committee to assist Jeju provincial government in creating policy which is in keeping with the goal of becoming a “free international city,” and to protect the rights of foreign residents.

In January of this year, provincial council member Lee Sunhwa contacted Song for suggestions on how to give foreigners a voice in local government by involving experts from the foreign community in the legislative process.

▲ Audience members review documents, including proposed ordinance. Photo by Darryl Coote

Following several months of development, the concept was formally presented on June 8 in Jeju Provincial Council, sponsored by Lee.

In her introductory presentation, Lee highlighted a rapid increase in the number of foreign residents since 2006, described in detail the need for such a committee, and reviewed the first draft of a related ordinance.

She also provided examples of Tokyo's inclusive policies toward foreign residents and Germany's foreign resident advisory committees.

“We cannot do this on our own,” she told the audience and members of the press, referring to the development of Jeju as a “free international city.” “We need the foreign community's help.”

▲ Statistics on increased foreign residents, provided by Council Member Lee Sunhwa. Photo by Darryl Coote

Challenges to Jeju's progress were highlighted by other speakers in the forum, and included cultural considerations, language barriers, the lack of opportunities for foreign involvement in Jeju society, a need for increased cultural awareness, a lack of basic supports, and the informal segregation of foreign and local communities.

The Foreign Advisory Committee, as it is now known, is still in the development stage. It will be situated within the provincial government structure and directly responsible to the governor's office.

Attorney Kang Intae, deputy director of the Provincial Council's Legislation Examination Team, has recently made the required preliminary announcement to both public and private sectors regarding this proposed committee. In this formal process he hopes to elicit the response of Jeju residents – foreigners and nationals alike.

The stated purpose of the proposed committee is to advise the government on matters of policy relating (1) to its residential foreign community, and (2) to Jeju's development as a “free international city” with an atmosphere which attracts foreign investors, tourists, employees and residents.

Potential members for the committee must be proposed by local entities such as government officials or council members, JDC, leaders of foreign sub-communities, or by formal application and related processes. Ultimately, members are appointed directly by the governor.

Membership qualifications, outlined in detail in the proposed ordinance, are designed to ensure expertise and include such criteria as a related doctoral degree, professional license, professorship or public / private sector experience; or, extended residential period in Jeju province; or, specialized knowledge as determined by the governor, committee chairperson, or council member.

Committee composition is to include a maximum of 30 members with a minimum of two-thirds foreign experts and one-third Korean nationals with related expertise. The latter includes council members, government department directors, and others.

The draft ordinance also outlines the committee structure and function, to include researching and advising the governor on matters of policy relevant to the foreign community and to the development of Jeju as a “free international city.”

One of the early tasks under consideration for such a committee is the dissemination of a survey to all residential foreigners of Jeju in order to determine the precise needs of the foreign community.

Residents of Jeju, nationals and foreigners alike, tend to be skeptical regarding committee effectiveness and the government's intention to include foreigners in any substantial way, a legitimate concern.

However, the need for a “global mind” is increasingly recognized by the Jeju provincial government, and several related efforts – including presentations and ongoing classes for high-level government officials, the placement of foreigners on a few new government committees, and the continued development of international relationships – are encouraging.

Jeju Free International City is a dream that can best be realized with the help of Jeju's foreign community.

Dr. Hilty is a cultural health psychologist.

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