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July 2012 Volume 19 Number 3
Of the 2.1 million registered foreigners in Japan at the end of 2010, 531,000 left in the month after the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami. However, two-thirds of the foreigners who left Japan after the tsunami obtained re-entry permits, and by the end of 2011 the number of foreigners was again 2.1 million, a decline of less than three percent. The number of foreigners in Japan peaked at 2.2 million in 2008.<< back
Instead of a mass exit of foreigners, the number of some types of foreigners increased after the tsunami. For example, the number of foreign trainees rose from 100,000 in December 2010 to 142,000 in December 2011. The types of foreigners whose numbers declined were decreasing before the earthquake, including foreigners who provided English-language skills in Japanese workplaces; some of these jobs were outsourced to Singapore and other countries.
Japan began to replace Alien Registration Cards with residence permits in July 2012. The new residence permits allow foreigners to live in Japan five years, up from three years.
Japan's population of 127 million is projected to fall to 100 million by 2050 due to low fertility and limited immigration. In 2009, almost 35,000 marriages, five percent of marriages that year, involved a non-Japanese partner. Attitudes toward foreigners are evolving, but most Japanese continue to believe that it is impossible for foreigners to become Japanese.
The film "Lonesome Swallows," released in June 2012, follows ethnic Japanese from Brazil who moved to Japan in the early 1990s to fill auto-related jobs in Hamamatsu. The focus is on the children of these ethnic Japanese who went to Japanese public schools but often did not complete high school, which put them near the bottom of the Japanese job ladder despite knowing Japanese. Many of the alienated youth left Japan in 2009, when the so-called "Nikkei" law offered cash bonuses to unemployed ethnic Japanese from Brazil and Peru who returned to their countries of origin.
Korea. At the end of 2011, there were 1.4 million foreigners in Korea, including 727,000 migrant workers; the 500,000 non-professionals included 300,000 ethnic Korean Chinese and another 200,000 foreign workers admitted with E-9 visas under the Employment Permit System (EPS).
The government set the EPS quota at 57,000 for 2012, up from 48,000 in 2011. Some 67,100 EPS migrants are expected to leave Korea in 2012 as their period of employment expires after a maximum four years and 10 months in Korea; 34,000 left in 2011 after reaching their maximum period of employment. After three months outside Korea, "exemplary" foreign manual workers can return to Korea with new E-9 visas to work for the same Korean employer for another four years and 10 months.
Most EPS migrant workers are employed in small manufacturing enterprises; migrants were an average of 20 percent of workers in workplaces that hire migrants in 2011, double their 10 percent share of workers in 2006.
Some 70,000 workers admitted under the EPS from 15 Asian countries have become unauthorized, prompting a crackdown in May 2012.
The Korean government operates seven migrant worker support centers in major urban areas, and an additional 27 smaller support centers in rural areas. These rural support centers often assist women from Vietnam, the Philippines and other southeast Asian countries who marry Korean farmers. In some cases, Vietnamese families encourage their daughters to marry Korean men for promises such as $100 a month to support parents who remain in Vietnam.
Foreigners committed 27,000 crimes in Korea in 2011, almost double the 14,500 in 2007. Over half of crimes committed by foreigners are of Chinese or Korean ancestry. Several particularly gruesome murders in spring 2012 led to a wave of anti-foreigner sentiment.