By Kim Bo-eun
If your mother isn’t Korean then the Korean language may not be your mother tongue. Forty percent of children from biracial families are having trouble speaking Korean as most of their mothers have the same problem, a study showed Wednesday.
The study by the Korea Institute of Child Care and Education was based on a survey of 534 multiracial families with children aged two to seven from June to September last year. It found that 40 percent of the children had Korean language difficulties.
The number of biracial children reached 151,154 last year, comprising 11.9 percent of the total number of foreign residents.
More and more Korean men have married foreign brides, especially from China and Southeast Asian countries.
Children who scored highest on the test had Chinese-Korean mothers; while those who had mothers from China, Vietnam, the Philippines and Japan showed similar levels of language development.
“The greatest factor behind the children’s delayed language development is that the mothers are not able to speak Korean very well,” said Choi Yoon-kyung, a researcher at the institute.
“However, despite their mothers’ inability to speak the language, children in families in which their fathers or grandparents participate in childcare do not have difficulty in speaking Korean.”
Another problem with interracial marriages is that they occur in rural parts of the nation, in which there is a lack of young women to marry men who work on farms.
“The problem is that rural areas do not have adequate educational centers the children can attend to acquire the language,” said Choi. “And fathers are usually busy working on farms so they are unable to take part in childrearing.”
The study also showed that children who attend childcare support centers or are using public services scored higher on the test, suggesting that a Korean speaking environment and interaction with other Koreans help in learning the language.
A positive development is that the government has started to take up the full cost of attending daycare centers since last year for children from multiracial families.
However, the authorities need to take additional measures.
“The government needs to identify the families in which the children experience difficulty in acquiring Korean, usually the ones with low incomes, to provide adequate support for them,” said Choi.
“Attention also needs to be paid to the parents, ensuring that both the fathers and their foreign spouses are ready and willing to participate in raising their children,” she added.