Inclusion in Korean Society
Inclusion in Korean Society
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  • 승인 2022.06.19 23:45
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Professor Jung, Chea Yun studied law at Korea University, the New York University School of Law, and is licensed to practice law in the State of New York. She has previously spent time in the Supreme Court Judicial Policy Research Institute and the Graduate School of Future Strategy at KAIST. She is currently a professor in the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences at POSTECH and offers law courses – such as Artificial Intelligence and Law and Introduction to Law – that are popular amongst Postechian cohorts. She specializes in legal philosophy, legal sociology, and legal anthropology which are sub-categories of Basic Law; in particular, her work mainly revolves around reconstructing modern legal theory from the perspective of pluralism, toleration, and cosmopolitanism. She continues to research new legal issues that are bubbling up to the surface with the prevalence of artificial intelligence, blockchain, and decentralized governance. Below is a written interview with Prof. Jung about her experiences in New York, and her take on the subject of inclusion in Korean society.

Tell us about your Chinese New Year anecdote at New York University (NYU).
Lunar New Year’s day (설날, Seollal) – one of the largest and most representative holidays in the Korean calendar – is often dubbed Chinese New Year in most parts of the United States, notwithstanding the diverse number of Asian countries that all celebrate the holiday alike. New York City was no exception in using this ignorant naming convention. The NYU law school was, at the time, ranked the No. 1 university in the field of international law, and there were many jurists and law practitioners from Asia. Striving to achieve the alleged diversity and inclusion, NYU planned a large social event to commemorate the Chinese New Year. This ill-advised naming convention not only defeats the purpose of diversity but also is ironically embarrassing to be used amongst highly educated scholars. So, I conducted an extensive survey of countries celebrating Lunar New Year and filed a formal complaint to the university, pointing out the lack of understanding as a representative law school in NYC. Within a day, the event poster was corrected to Lunar New Year, and the school replied to my email with an apology beginning with “Thank you for enlightening us.” Ten years after this incident in 2011, NYU Law School is still celebrating the Lunar New Year and has established itself as a festival where students from various Asian countries introduce their traditional cultures.

Korean society is also undergoing rapid globalization. During your time in New York, you were the foreigner; now, they are. What mindset should we adopt for us not to repeat the same mistake that happened to you in NY and to become part of the international society of diversity and inclusion?
The United States is a country pioneered by immigrants from the beginning. Nevertheless, Asian Americans, due to their racial heterogeneity, are called perpetual foreigners and are often excluded from the mainstream narrative of societal discussions, hence the name “unseen yellow”. Korea has a history of emphasizing the so-called single race: homogeneity in ethnicity, language, and lineage. Although the government officially declared itself a multicultural society in 2006, there still exists a stubborn perception that hinders the change toward a society of inclusion. For the integration and inclusion of a multicultural society, we should not insist on an assimilationist strategy that tries to unidirectionally conform foreigners into Korean culture. In ancient philosophy, strangers have been treated as beings who bring new perspectives and possibilities for change to the existing host country. Xenophobia is due to unfamiliarity and fear of the new and change. It is, therefore, necessary to reflect on the fact that foreigners can be a source of positive opportunities to further develop and enrich the culture. This new way of thinking perhaps is the necessary condition to change the societal narrative of our current immigration policy which is far behind compared to other developed nations.
What issues does our constitution have that may be – intentionally or unintentionally – discriminatory towards foreigners and minority groups? In what ways should those issues be fixed?
“All citizens shall be equal before the law, and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic, social or cultural life on account of sex, religion, and social status”, stipulates Article 11 of our Constitution. As the modern nation and law were established based on the principle of freedom and equity, it goes without saying that discrimination against an individual without a reasonable cause cannot be tolerated under any circumstance. However, it is also worth noting that there is an obvious distinction between the number of rights given to a citizen and a foreigner. Nonetheless, allowing foreigners who meet certain criteria the right to a vote in local elections starting from 2005 is a positive change toward multiculturalism. Moreover, the enactment of a comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Act remains a crucial step to preserving the equality of migrant workers, marriage immigrants, and such minority groups.

It is my understanding that law is not above common sense. Would you agree with this statement? And if so, what other efforts should be made to make our society more open towards foreigners – other than making changes to the law.
Law is a framework that requires interpretation, and, of course, common sense is reflected in the application of the law. As the societal norm of justice changes, laws are also open to amendment through democratic legislative procedures. Changes in the societal perception of foreigners seem to be taking place gradually through various socio-cultural movements. In particular, multicultural policies have long emphasized multicultural education. The gradual exposure to therapy through education is what allows students to overcome narrow sight prejudices. Currently, there is a heated debate over the construction of a mosque in Daegu. The dispute led to a series of lawsuits in which the first and second trials concluded the construction be continued, but the conflict is still ongoing. To overcome potential Islamophobia – and in a grand scheme, strive for a more open society – we have to turn our attention to the role of civil movements and the education system.

College Associate Professor Jung, Chea YunDiv. of Humanities and Social Sciences
College Associate Professor
Jung, Chea Yun
Div. of Humanities and Social Sciences