Seoul mayor backs 'Little Manila' market
MANILA, Philippines - Seoul Mayor Won-soon Park recently expressed support for "Little Manila," a market set up by Filipinos in the South Korean capital.
In an interview with ABS-CBNnews.com in Manila, Park said he has asked his staff to provide support for the Filipinos who meet every Sunday in "Little Manila" in Hyehwa, Jongno district.
"It's near my official residence in Hyehwa, where every Sunday some Filipinos residing in Seoul meet regularly. I see them often, so I asked my staff to provide support for them, such as asking the bank to open to allow them to easily remit money, to provide space for them and to provide medical services for them," he said.
"Little Manila", located outside the Hyehwa Catholic Church, first started in 1997. Every Sunday, Filipinos gather in the small area after attending mass at the church. It is estimated that as much as 2,000 Filipinos go to the market every Sunday.
However, some Korean residents complained about the traffic in the area caused by Filipino vendors and visitors. In February 2010, the Jongno District Office in Seoul tried to stop the Filipino community from holding the Sunday market. But due to the efforts of the Filipino community, the market was allowed to stay in the area.
Park said Seoul metropolitan government has been implementing programs for foreign residents.
"There are more than 200,000 multicultural population in Seoul, and 6,000 of them are Filipinos. Korea and Seoul, in the past, was a very homogeneous society. Now it's growing into an increasingly more multicultural global society. It's very important for us to help the international residents settle down in Korea and succeed in Seoul," he said.
Among its programs is the Multicultural Family Support Center, which provides classes for Korean language and culture. The center also assists the employment of multicultural families by providing consultation and translation services.
"At the Seoul Global Center, where we provide information in 10 different languages, including Tagalog. We also provide information on how to start up companies and do business in the city for foreigners. Foreigners, if they stay in Seoul for five years and if they pay taxes, we also give them the right to vote," Park said.
The Seoul mayor cited the example of Philippine-born Jasmine Lee, who was the first naturalized Korean to be elected in the National Assembly.
"I think it is very symbolic, the National Assembly is responsible for for legislation. With Jasmine coming to the National Assembly, it means we can enact more legislation, laws on how to prevent discrimination against multicultural families and help them advance their rights in daily lives. Through her, I believe we can make this possible," Park said.
Park was in Manila last week to meet with the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chief Francis Tolentino and other Metro Manila mayors, as well as deliver the keynote address at the Ramon Magsaysay Awards. Park was the 2006 winner of the Magsaysay Award for public service.