Friday, December 27, 2013

Problems of Mass Immigration and Multiculturalism in the UK - How Korea has Shaped my Perspective

In a few days, I will return home for a month long vacation.  It is a terrible time of year to visit the UK, January is cold and dark, but at least I will be there for the New Years celebrations and I will meet friends and family I have not seen for over two years.  It is amazing how the time has flown by.

As well as January being one of the most depressing months of the year for weather reasons, there is another reason Britons have cause for concern this January and that is the anticipated mass immigration of Romanians and Bulgarians.  From the 1st of January, restrictions will be lifted on these countries which will enable them to move freely to the UK and other countries in the European Union.

Immigration is of great concern for the British public, when Poland was allowed easier access to the UK in 2004 due to the enlargement of the EU, the then Labour government predicted 10 000 Polish would come; the actual number was more like half a million.  Much of the population is also concerned with the effect that growing Muslim populations are having.  The graphic murder of Lee Rigby on a London street encouraged some hysteria against Muslims, but terrorism is just one of many concerns people have.

In a report by the Democracy Institute, a think tank in the UK, it is predicted that 385 000 Romanians and Bulgarians will come to the UK once the borders are open to them after January 1st.

There are a number of red herrings in the debate on immigration in the UK often peddled by those on the right and those in the increasingly popular UK Independence Party (UKIP) - although the party does make many good points on immigration also. Apparently, migrants from Eastern Europe take our jobs, put strain on the economy, claim benefits, and commit crime.   This article from The Economist makes the argument against all of these and although there could be some debate about what they say, I am willing to accept it for the sake of argument as it makes no difference to mine.  I am sceptical about the benefits such mass immigration has on my country and this scepticism stems from my experiences with Korean culture and my marriage with a Korean woman.

Why is this you might say?  Surely I should be pro-immigration and longing for a world without borders.

Well, let's start with a rather controversial comment on my blog a while ago from someone who said they were against inter-racial marriage and breeding.  I invited him to debate me over e-mail as to why he would say such a thing, as I obviously am against such a position.  What I took out of the exchange was certainly not agreement with his point of view, but he did lay-out quite a bit of evidence to suggest that such unions tend to be more troublesome for the couples in question and for their children.  I acknowledged such relationships are generally more difficult, I just didn't agree that necessarily translated into inter-racial and cross-cultural relationships being something we shouldn't do.

The difficulty of such relationships is fairly obvious when you think about it; the pressures of a world that still places quite a high importance on the colour of one's skin is one reason, but also many inter-racial relationships are also cross-cultural, like between my wife and I.  We have unique problems that people of the same culture would not have in areas such as, personality, sense of humour, family, core values, and geography, to mention but a few.  These issues can be worked through with love, an open mind, and an appreciation of the enrichment these differences can have on each other's lives.  However, these can still be big problems that not everyone is capable of overcoming.

Perhaps you can see what angle I am taking here; replace one couple and their families with millions of people within a nation and people whose motivations to cope with these kinds of problems is not so strong and I think you can see why friction could be created.

I have been writing this blog for nearly two years now and it has become a bit of a library of how British and Korean culture can clash.  I am never short of material in this regard and this fires-off warning signals in my brain.  My wife and I have spent time in other countries, we understand where our difficulties arise based around our cultures and we can absorb and understand them.  I don't think this is the case with the vast majority of my fellow countrymen in the UK and the immigrants that go there.  The British people have tolerance hammered into their brains, not understanding, and the people coming into the UK lead largely separate lives in islands within the British Isles.  The combination causes a culture of blame, resentment, frustration, inequality, and prejudice.

In my post, "The Hypocrisy of Western Prejudice", I now believe I was too harsh on some of my fellow Brits who found it awkward to make friends with my wife.  Perhaps some of them could have been more open-minded and made the same effort as my wife was making, but the fact is that this kind of openness to others is something that tends to be learned - most often by travel or living in another culture - and doesn't come naturally. Tribalism and discomfort with people of other cultures is what comes naturally to most, even the very warm-hearted and kind.  That's where the hypocrisy comes in, they are told that everyone should be treated equally and to be open-minded to people of other cultures and they say they believe it, but until they actually practice being this way, it doesn't really happen in reality.  Interaction with people from other cultures often has to be practiced, it is like a skill, and like any other skill, there will be some people that pick it up easily and some that will require much more time to get into the swing of things.

All of this takes time and hard-work as a couple, let alone a population of a country.  Mass immigration is a recipe for disaster because it takes away the ability of the native people to adjust slowly and comfortably to people from other countries and cultures.  Some of these people are from cultures that, until relatively recently, have lived apart for hundreds, maybe even thousands of years and whose value systems are completely different, even opposite on occasions.  Whether the country is benefited economically by immigration or not is largely irrelevant to most people when they see behaviour from others that abhors them because their core moral values are so different.

Immigration has always been a part of Britain, and as some people like to say, "most of us are immigrants".  But figures don't lie, Britain has had an unprecedented rise in immigration from a decade or so ago.  Now, in London, only about 44% are White British.  Such a rapid change in the make up of the British population is a concern for many and it is causing racial and cultural tensions.

What we see in Western countries in particular is constant talk about how life-enriching and beneficial all this mingling of different cultures is for all of us.  This is true, I know it from my marriage into a Korean family and wouldn't change things for the world now.  But I also know that the difficulties are significant and seriously under-addressed and the problem is that when they are addressed they are often dismissed because the people who address them are regularly right-wing nut-bags, like the EDL or the BNP in the UK (UKIP are often perceived this way also, although unfairly, I think), who are genuinely racist and genuinely closed-minded.  Because of this, when people speak-up from a similar position who are not prejudiced and have genuine concerns, they are shouted-down by a culture of progressive liberalism as belonging to groups of racists and neo-nazis.  We end up with too many people being extremely pro-immigration and too many extremely anti-immigration with not much sensible argument in the middle.  The extreme pro-immigration side has been winning for some time - at least in the political arena - but that may change soon with right-wing political parties gaining popularity all around Europe.

Another issue, which we are at pains to address, is the fact that the people from different cultures that enter the UK are not all equal.  Western Europeans and North Americans, for example, are not likely to disrupt the traditional culture of the UK and create as much tension as some others, like people from mainly Islamic countries for example.  This is a hard problem to acknowledge, but we must honestly address it because it is causing significant difficulties in many European countries at the moment.

The Importance of Cross-Cultural Relationships

There could be a significant amount of self-interest involved in what I am about to say, but still I think it is true.  A year or so ago, the British government made it a lot more difficult for married couples - British nationals with non-EU member nationals - to come to the UK (this is the reason I am not in the UK now and planning to live in Australia instead).  I believe this is a major mistake (a mistake motivated solely by saving a little money for the economy and making headlines) because if there was ever a chance for different cultures to truly interact with each other and for multiculturalism to really work, these kinds of couples hold the key.  They are the ones who can comprehend the difficulties and know how to overcome them and they are the ones who can create positive interactions between different cultures and communities living in the same country.  They can encourage true integration because they can share the same friends and family as their spouse.  This is the kind of immigration that is genuinely beneficial and the chance of better unity and communication has been squandered in an attempt to show that the government is "getting tough" on immigration.

Living together in peace, equality and harmony is the goal, but we won't get there by forcing mass immigration on people that are not ready yet, it must occur more slowly and in a way that encourages integration.  We are failing on both in the UK and there is trouble ahead because of it.


  1. I think too many people in the UK underestimate the fact that the country has been a bastion of immigration for the best part of 2-3000 years.

    I doubt that 44% of people in London are white British... I guestimate a figure closer to 4.4%, and the royal family sure aren't part of that 4.4%. We have such a short view of history and know so little of the past.

    My point is, when you look at the history of Britain and the origin of those that have ruled, built, represented, fought, rebuilt, slaved, made money, and died for the country, you will find out that the vast majority of them originate from elsewhere. THAT is what makes Britain what it is today.

    I find the notion of 'white British' repulsive....there have been 'black British' people on this island for over 2000 years and 'Asian British' for at least the last 500 years. They did not stop Britain from becoming what it is today and I don't think the Romanians and Bulgarians will either.

    I do agree that if people want to reside in the UK, they have to be willing to adapt to British culture. At the end of the day, British culture (and language AND history) is an amalgamation of multiple cultures, histories and languages from the 4 corners of the world. The fact that we Brits have become lazy in our attempts to assert this means extremists from other places are free to come in and assert what they feel should be asserted, when it should be the other way around.

    Besides, there are MUCH bigger problems facing the country at the moment. Bankers going wild, the government is only interested in paying itself higher wages and bonuses while everybody else is in the shitter. Living costs that would make even the well-off balk, a severely failing infrastructure and so on.

    Priorities fella....priorities.

    1. There are a couple of issues with what you wrote that are important to point out:

      1. "Priorities fella....priorities."

      Well, the title of the post wasn't, "The most important issue in the world today!" It was a post specifically about immigration and cultural integration. It is not the biggest problem out there for sure, but it is an issue that concerns people and is therefore worth talking about. It is also an issue that I feel I have some experience with to comment about and bears some relation to my experiences in South Korea and with my Korean wife when we lived in England. I'm afraid I can bring little important or interesting opinion on banking as I would have no clue what I would be talking about.

      2. "I find the notion of 'white British' repulsive....there have been 'black British' people on this island for over 2000 years and 'Asian British' for at least the last 500 years. They did not stop Britain from becoming what it is today and I don't think the Romanians and Bulgarians will either."

      This is a red herring, and the term 'White British' is not repulsive it is just a way of identifying people, like you said it is hardly an exact science, but it can serve as a pattern identifier. The fact is that the percentage of people belonging to this ethnic group has declined rapidly in recent years to 44% in London, which tells you something about the level of immigration we've had in recent years.

      The uncomfortable fact is that most of the British population turns out to be White, still. But it has declined in the last 10 years or so (by almost 10% I think). Race is not the important factor for me, it is just skin colour and should not matter, but the simple fact is that people who are non-white are more likely not to be culturally British or even culturally Western (therefore further away from British cultural values). The changing figures are a good way of showing that there are more people of different cultures in the UK and my theory is that such rapid changes cause problems by clashing cultural values.

      The history of Britain and having lots of immigrants in the past and being racially diverse is largely irrelevant because it is the rapid change I am arguing against. I have no problem with immigration that is better controlled and can therefore aid in successful integration and understanding of people from different cultures. It is possible and desirable for multiculturalism to work out (who would want this more than someone like me) but under the current conditions in the UK it is not working and I do believe the situation will only get worse.

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  3. Read Gavin Cooke's 'Britain's Great Immigration Disaster' and then come back and start singing about the glory of immigration.

    Post 1997 immigration has changed the face of British society and the hyphenated identity and ethnic loyalties will continue to metastasize rapidly across the country I believe. Over 5 million foreign nationals arrived to UK shores during Labour's time: under Major net immigration was 40,000 per annum. London is a microcosm for how the rest of the country will look a decade or two from now.

    What Britain has experienced is not immigration but mass immigration and there is a difference between the two, a big one. There was no referendum, no debate in parliament and it wasn't included in any party manifesto: New Labour simply opened its doors to the third world and the EU. Now we have the burkha, spiralling crime, racial and religious tensions, radical Islam and the rise of terrorism, the growth of the far right and ethnic ghettos that even the police are too afraid to go in to.

    The first thing that needs to be addressed is the discourse and dialogue: i.e. we need to start having one free of people being labelled for saying something disagreeable. Half the reason we have so many spiralling problems is that we can't and thus don't talk about these issues. Simply calling someone an 'ist' isn't going to solve anything: its a fear and intimidation tactic used by the left to shutdown debate. It is intellectually and, I would propose, morally dishonest.

    Go into Bradford, parts of Birmingham, Longsight (Manchester), Brixton, Tower Hamlets, Newham (all London) and show me what is multicultural about these places please. One in five of newborns in the UK is to a foreign national.

    Mass immigration will seal Britain's financial and social collapse within the next couple of decades. It will ensure the end of the NHS, social security, pensions and a complete top down transformation of British society.

    1. Your first sentence wasn't addressed at me was it, I am certainly not singing the praises of immigration. Perhaps you were just speaking generally.

      Anyway, I am not against immigration, just mass immigration, like you said. People need time to adapt on both sides. This hasn't happened, integration has not occurred and only problems will come of it.

    2. It wasn't addressed to you, Christopher. Sorry, just getting the hang of this blog commenting stuff.

    3. No worries. It is more likely that I was looking for a fight, haha.

  4. Hello, I'm a Korean living in Korea, hope you understand my terrible English.

    I wanted to say I understand your point, because I hate recent immigration rush from South-east asia and China to Korea.

    I was taught not to hate them, I tried to be nice to them, but twice I met Parkistan men who were terrible(touching me while pretending shaking hands), heard a lot of horror stories what immigrants do in my country, and seeing recent crimes committed by Chinese immigrants on the news, I started to hate them.

    Especially many Chineses or Korea-oriented chineses(called Chosun-jok) commit too many crimes (usually money scams) in Korea. They became major criminal groups committing money scam(mainly through electronic banking) in Korea, (not really gangsters yet) and they steal our personal information, sell it in China.

    If Islams start to come to my country, that'll be a disaster, we're not ready yet to mingle with our Asian neighbors, how can we stand Islamic culture? We are basically Buddhism and Christianity based country. (not to mention Confucianism) Mixing one more religious salad in a bowl would be a chaos. (I guess you'd be surprised hearing we are Christianity based, but since modernization by westerners, Christianity took over many part of Korea)

    My comment is getting longer, anyway I wanted to say I feel sorry that your country is getting overrun by massive immigrants. Sometimes I understand why white people hate us.

    If you feel unbearable urge to correct my English, have a cup of tea and relax. :)

    1. No need to apologise, your English is great (and about a million times better than my Korean).

      I think there is a risk that we demonise immigrants in our countries, I am guessing that the vast majority of people who come to Korea or England are honest, hardworking people. The inevitable criminal elements among these people will stand-out more to us. The immigrants and crime connection is something I find difficult to comment on as the facts are unclear.

      The problem isn't racial, it's cultural, it is just that race often gives you a good general idea of someone's culture, i.e. a Chinese-looking man is more likely to be culturally Far Eastern, although this is by no means certain.

      Living with and interacting with people from other cultures is life-enriching, it is why I love traveling so much, but there is another side to it and that is the conflict. Our conflicting cultural values and behaviours are things we need time to adjust to and understand and they need to be slowly got used to. Mass immigration thrusts these differences upon people to quickly and intensely (the natives of the country) and it causes problems.

      I don't know much about you, but if you have traveled or lived in a completely different kind of culture you know that as well as somethings surprising you and interesting you, there are also things that cause you disgust and moral outrage. The traveler is open-minded and flexible and understands he/she is a visitor, many natives to a country and the immigrants that come to it are close-minded, inflexible, and aren't going anywhere.

      Many thanks for reading and commenting.

  5. How can British people complain about immigration? Your government has been violently spreading global capitalism for literally hundreds of years. It's inevitable that people will want to move to Britain and to many other wealthy places. The Tories who look back on the "glorious Empire" and complain about immigration are especially hypocritical.

    1. I as a British person have absolutely no problem with people coming to the UK, but they must be able to adapt to British culture, law, and customs, and I think that is fair enough. The problem is that people from some cultures come to the UK and don't integrate, they lead separate lives in their own islands within the British Isles. They don't understand the Brits and the Brits don't understand them and conflict is the result. Mass immigration on the scale currently being seen is not enabling people to adapt, on all sides, to each other and is causing problems.

      Immigration is fine and it ultimately benefits everyone, but when too many people come too quickly it causes problems and multiculturalists have been slow to acknowledge this.

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  7. Hello

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    1. Don't know if this is spamming or genuine, because you can't have read my post.

      In the current state of the world, I am not in favour of the free movement of people to live in any place they wish, I don't think the idea that this will create peace and harmony between us all is a very realistic one. Cultural differences are very real and sometimes very divisive. Too many people coming from one culture into an another can cause many problems, so restrictions are necessary. I say this even as an avid traveller who regularly is frustrated by visas. If it is just about travel, then fine. But if you mean all people should be free to live wherever they please, as libertarian as my many of my views are, I can't see this working out too well and would be against it.