The South Korean Ministry of Labor said it has similar concerns.
“Too much migrant workforce could hamper work conditions and deprive opportunities for underprivileged South Koreans,” said Jang Hyun-suk, senior deputy director at the labor ministry’s foreign workforce division.
The term given to Korean-Chinese, joseonjok, describes the descendants of Koreans who fled to China in the late 1800s and early 1900s in the face of famine and Japanese occupation.
Advocacy groups say the name is associated with negative connotations in the media, such as by highlighting crimes committed by these immigrants, although their crime rate is less than the national average.
Baek Chung-kang, the son of Korean-Chinese parents, felt the full force of discrimination after he won a TV contest that launched him as a pop singer. However, after being diagnosed with cancer, he was attacked online.
“We have no sympathy with joseonjok,” read one comment about his illness, while another said: “You should thank South Korea because you would be dead by now if you were in China.”
An arson attack that razed a shelter in Seoul used by immigrants epitomized for many Korean-Chinese workers the isolation they feel.
“Although now we face a difficult path, we will work together and win,” shelter resident Lee Kwon-hwa said.
As he looked at the ruins, Chae seemed more downbeat.
“Life is not beautiful here,” the construction worker said.