Recent statistics show that 1.5 million to 2 million foreigners live in Korea, accounting for over 3 percent of the nation's population. A range of programs are being offered to help them better adapt to life in Korean society. In a bid to help immigrant families, university student Ji Byung-ju came up with a unique idea early this year to provide immigrant mothers with postnatal services from midwives of the same nationality.
"Despite the rapid increase in multicultural families, Korean society still does not give them enough care and attention," Ji said. "I wanted to help them start a new life in a foreign country, and while I was doing research with them I found that immigrant women find it a hard and lonely experience giving birth in a completely foreign environment."
Ji decided it would be more comforting if they had midwives of the same nationality. He also learned women from different cultures traditionally have different nutritious food ! to recover from delivery -- seaweed soup in Korea, pork hock in China and snakehead fish in Vietnam. This setup would also help foreign midwives by creating jobs for them.
After taking a leave from college, he set up an office in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province in February. "I found that the province, southern Suwon in particular, has the highest population of multicultural families in the nation," Ji said.
Currently, services are limited to nearby areas, but once his business is up and running, he plans to expand the service to other areas including Seoul.
Immigrant midwives are required to take 40 hours of postnatal training administered by the Ministry of Health and Welfare. Over 20 foreign midwives work with Ji, with Chinese comprising the largest group, followed by Japanese and Vietnamese.
Still in its infancy, the business is not profitable yet. "I did not start the service to make big money," Ji said. "My ultimate goal is to have immigrant women run it on their own."