Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Foreigner's Town Hall

By way of The Lost Nomad I came across the annual Foreigner's Forum. It's only a Seoul thing but the article notes many of the problems that fuel the ex-pat blogs. For example:

“I could not withdraw money from my Korean bank account with my ATM card when I was traveling abroad. But I saw my Korean companions withdraw money without any problem,” said Anne LaDouceur, the moderator of the meeting and a member of the city government’s Foreign Investment Advisory Council.

Some in the audience noted that they could not even use their ATM cards in Korea for several months after they opened new bank accounts here. “Nonghyup recently refused to open my account even though I have lived here for four years and have an alien registration number and a passport. I was ashamed,” said a Nepalese man.

Officials from Woori Bank had a hard time answering the questions, so city officials said they would figure the problems out and provide the information later on the Web site of the Seoul Help Center for Foreigners (http://shc.seoul.go.kr/).
Sound familiar? Unfortunately this is the 9th foreigner forum and having these issues raised here means either that these are surprisingly new challenges or that its a recycling of complaints from last years forum. From what I've experienced with Korean culture I suspect the latter. I tried researching for the minutes of past meetings to make the comparison, and even though the schedule has an item to take up the minutes from the 8th Seoul Town Meeting, the link for further information circularly sends you back to the home page:
13:30 ~ 13:35

13:35 ~ 13:40
Opening Remarks (Vice Mayor)

Welcoming Remarks (FIAC Representative)Brief Follow-up on 8th Seoul Town Meeting (document available on-line at http://shc.seoul.go.kr)
I did find this document, a pdf file that may be the correct link. Unfortunately it really doesn't tell me much; contrast latest foreigner police problem with the 8th forum's collection of policing problems:
1. What have SMG [Seoul Metropolitan Government] done in order to prevent spitting and littering?
⇒ Those people can be caught and be fined.
2. Emergency phone number available 24hours?
⇒ 112 for criminal cases.
3. Ways to report law breakers?
⇒ Dial 112.
4. Good driving habits nurturing law?
⇒ Driving law is applied
5. What do you think about smoking in public place?
⇒ They should be fined.
6. Is it possible to prevent riding motorcycle in sidewalks?
⇒ Clamp down on those riders starting from this coming May.
7. Bus no.3 in Iteawon is blocking the sidewalk at night
⇒ Inform the local officials of the fact.
8. Why policemen don't prohibit riding motorcycle on the side-walk? How to improve traffic conditions in Seoul?
⇒ Pan-National campaign is being scheduled.
9. Blinker light and siren of police patrol cars are bothering.
⇒ In case of emergency, public understanding is required.
10. Discrimination against diplomat cars and US army vehicles.
⇒ Law enforcement is unbiased for everyone
11. Road signs are confusing at times
⇒ Report it to the local government when you find error.
Apart from the minutes there are some other points to the foreigner's forums that make it feel like a half-hearted or even useless attempt at changing a basic element of Korean culture. Elements like the officials from Woori bank not being able to explain their own foreigner policy, the fact that foreigners had to pre-register for a Friday lunch-time meeting, or even logic of offering complimentary tickets to Ballerina who loves B-Boyz.

1 comment:

Brian said...

There's a thread about it on Dave's: http://forums.eslcafe.com/korea/viewtopic.php?t=106710

. . . from whence came this comment:

"I was there and there were a number of teachers there (3 others from my univ alone) they really hammered the immigration guy about the e2 reforms, one guy asked why the e1s, f series and others arent being subjected to this. the guy had no answer in fact he didnt say when or what reforms were going through, just that they were still "meeting on it" In fact a woman from the UK Embassy was there asking about that. WHen asked by a guy why this was happening because only a very small minority of e2 holders have done anything bad, his reply was basically "e2 visa holders are scum". A foreign recruiter was there griping about the lack of info and all the lost business this has cost him and he got no answer

regarding the int atm card issue and the new accounts issue. they basically stonewalled a number of people including a guy who runs kotra (or some sort of group like that) who asked about it whats amazing is this has been going on for close to 2 years now so these people knew about it yet.

I also couldnt figure out what the purpose of the foreigner from KAIST who spoke after the break, she almost sounded like an apologist given she has only been here since aug."