Multicultural families turn unfamiliarity into empathy… Let’s embrace our arms wide

Kim Ji-hye (Reporter of Children’s Chosun Ilbo Newspaper, 2011)

Multicultural musical performance at Hanseong Overseas Chinese Elementary School

Tears of emotion at the acting of actors from immigrants

Ⓒ Children’s Chosun Ilbo Newspaper

“Letsam piriri~ Letsam piriri (Silk fluttering~ Silk fluttering)~ Pheasant”

“Urera Jeoungki Darabanjang Letsam Piriri (Shall we fly away or stay on the hill? Silk fluttering)~ Pheasant”

On the afternoon of the 10th, the auditorium on the 3rd floor of Hanseong Chinese Elementary School in Seoul. As the performance of the musical “Marina and Vijay” was nearing its end, the actors suddenly jumped into the audience. They put out the whiteboard they had hidden in the corner of the auditorium in front of the children, saying, “Tada”. There were lyrics and Korean explanations of the Nepalese traditional music “Letsam Piriri,” which appeared between performances. The performance quickly turned into a music lesson. Thanks to the catchy melodies, the children quickly learned the lyrics. In the performance that followed, when the song came out, the children all started humming and singing along. The auditorium was filled with the beautiful singing voices created by them.

◇ Multicultural musical performed by multinational actors

Marina and Vijay is a ‘multicultural children’s musical’ produced by the theater company Salad with the support of Shinhan Bank earlier this year and premiered on the 9th. It tells the story of an elementary school music class student preparing for a national music competition, centered on Vijay, an immigrated child of multicultural families (a term referring to children of migrant workers or marriage migrants who were not born in Korea and entered Korea with their parents, or who came to Korea belatedly at the call of their parents already living in Korea) from Nepal, and Marina, a child of a multicultural family with a Filipino mother, and Youngsuk, a model student who disapproves of her Vijay.

The plot is that they overcome conflicts and build friendships by practicing the Nepalese traditional music ‘Letsam Piriri’ together.

Park Kyong Ju (43 years old), who was in charge of writing and directing the performance, said, “There is not a single Korean actor among our theater troupe members. Immigrant Actors can draw more sympathy to solve the theme of multiculturalism, so from the time of its foundation in 2009, all actors have been cast only as multinationals.”

The 5th and 6th-grade students of Hanseong Chinese Elementary School, who attended the performance that day, were particularly moved by the scene of Marina and Youngsook reconciling and hugging each other. Some girls in the front row of the audience were in tears. Gong Ji-woo (5 years old) said, “Although it is a work about multiculturalism, I felt more sympathy because it dealt with what often happens between friends in a real classroom. It was so funny that the 50-minute performance time felt short.”

Ⓒ Children’s Chosun Ilbo Newspaper

◇“Treat friends from multicultural families with an open mind”

The moment when the audience showed the most enthusiastic response was, after all, the time when they formed a large circle in the auditorium immediately after the performance and sang ‘Let Sam Piri’ together. Jeon Myeong-nam (5 years old) said, “The song is exciting and cheerful, so it keeps ringing in my mouth. It was even better because we, who were in the audience, were able to participate together.”

Hanseong Overseas Chinese Elementary School itself is a place where children from multicultural families gather, so the impressions of the children who saw the performance were different. Hong Ye-na (5 years old) said, “In our school, there are many friends whose parents are from China and Taiwan, as well as from the United States and Russia, and they all get along well. However, some friends sometimes make fun of their country of origin, but I think they will feel something when they see this performance,” Lim Woo-rim (5 years old) said, “Honestly, Nepalese culture was a bit unfamiliar to me, but it was more interesting than I expected.”

Actress Shi Enjo (Chinese, 29 years old), who played the role of Young-sook in the performance, said, “I was excited to perform in a place where there are many children from China, but the response was good.” She added, “With this performance as an opportunity, I hope that by the time my three-year-old son goes to elementary school, everyone will be able to get along without prejudice.”

CEO Park Kyong Ju said, “Thanks to the help of my son, who was in the third year of elementary school, I think the performance was able to approach children in a fun way by creating a storyline.”

This performance will continue until the 12th of next month for a total of 17 performances. It is not open to the general audience. This is because Salad plan to tour mainly elementary schools with many children from multicultural families or teacher training centers of metropolitan and provincial education offices. Today (15th), the performance will be held at Dorim Elementary School in Seoul at 10:30 am.

Multicultural families turn unfamiliarity into empathy… Let’s embrace our arms wide

◆How many students from multicultural families will there be?

Ⓒ Children’s Chosun Ilbo Newspaper

According to the ‘2008-2011 Status of Students from Multicultural Families by City, Province, and School at Each Level’ released by the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology in August, the number of elementary, middle, and high school students from multicultural families nationwide as of 2011 was 38,890 in total. This is a 92.7% increase from 2008 (20,174). Of these, about 74% (28,748 people) are elementary school students. Looking at the distribution by region, Gyeonggi (8578 people) has the highest number, followed by Seoul (5951 people), Jeonnam (3236 people), and Chungnam (2607 people).

The increase in the number of students is also large. According to the National Statistical Office on the 3rd, the number of children born in multicultural families nationwide last year was 20,312. Compared to 2008 (13,443) and 2009 (19,024), the increase is clear <refer to the graphic>. On the same day, according to an analysis of the ‘2010-2011 Current State of Multicultural Families’ announced by the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, the number of students from multicultural families in Seoul increased by about 31% compared to last year.

◆Hanseong Overseas Chinese Elementary School

It was established in September 1909 as the first foreign school in Korea to be officially approved. It is located in Myeong-dong 2-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul, and celebrated its 102nd anniversary this year. It is the largest (7186㎡) among the 14 overseas Chinese schools nationwide. Around the 1970s, the number of students reached 2,300, making it the third-largest overseas Chinese school in the world. Currently, about 550 students are studying in 18 classes.

Most of the students are Taiwanese nationals, but some have nationalities such as China, the United States, and Russia. Some Korean students have entered the school to study foreign languages. The school does not record the student’s nationality in the school register in the sense of ‘all studying together’. It receives support from China and Taiwan, and its education policy follows the Taiwanese method. The official language of the school is Chinese.

Meanwhile, according to the Ministry of Justice, as of the end of June 2011, a total of 21,363 overseas Chinese are staying in Korea.

* Overseas Chinese: Refers to Chinese (Taiwanese) people and their descendants who leave their home countries (China or Taiwan) and emigrate overseas, settle down and engage in economic activities.

Ⓒ Children’s Chosun Ilbo Newspaper, 2011

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