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This study examines how the social integration of foreign wives into Korean society progresses with the duration of residence in Korea. It does so using data from a cross-sectional survey conducted nationally in 2006, by comparing wives at different stages of Korean residence while controlling for their demographic and socioeconomic characteristics. Foreign wives are grouped into four clusters by their ethnic origin: Korean Chinese, Han Chinese, Southeast Asian, and “other” wives. The findings show that, with only a few exceptions, prolonged residence in Korea, coupled with improvements in Korean language skills, helps foreign wives to eventually integrate into Korean society. The pace of integration differs substantially by foreign wives’ ethnic origin, but convergence among the groups is clear. For some indicators, such as labor force participation and childbearing, ethnic groups who are less engaged in the community during the initial period of residence show significantly faster rates of integration and catch up with the other groups after 7 years. For other aspects of social integration, such as Korean language skills, number of close neighbors, number of close Korean friends, and satisfaction with neighbors, the four groups consistently show increasing trajectories. The immigration histories vary greatly among the different ethnic groups of foreign wives in Korea, which suggests that cross-sectional comparisons of social integration among those groups will be confounded with the effects of residence duration. Taking into account duration effects is important, and in the future longitudinal data will be needed to attest to true duration effects.


This study examines how the social integration of foreign wives into Korean society progresses with the duration of residence in Korea. It does so using data from a cross-sectional survey conducted nationally in 2006, by comparing wives at different stages of Korean residence while controlling for their demographic and socioeconomic characteristics. Foreign wives are grouped into four clusters by their ethnic origin: Korean Chinese, Han Chinese, Southeast Asian, and “other” wives. The findings show that, with only a few exceptions, prolonged residence in Korea, coupled with improvements in Korean language skills, helps foreign wives to eventually integrate into Korean society. The pace of integration differs substantially by foreign wives’ ethnic origin, but convergence among the groups is clear. For some indicators, such as labor force participation and childbearing, ethnic groups who are less engaged in the community during the initial period of residence show significantly faster rates of integration and catch up with the other groups after 7 years. For other aspects of social integration, such as Korean language skills, number of close neighbors, number of close Korean friends, and satisfaction with neighbors, the four groups consistently show increasing trajectories. The immigration histories vary greatly among the different ethnic groups of foreign wives in Korea, which suggests that cross-sectional comparisons of social integration among those groups will be confounded with the effects of residence duration. Taking into account duration effects is important, and in the future longitudinal data will be needed to attest to true duration effects.


이 연구는 한국에 거주하는 혼인이주여성들이 거주기간에 따라 한국사회에 어떻게 더 잘 통합되어 가는지를 살펴본다. 분석을 위하여 2006 전국적으로 실시한 횡단적 조사에 포함된 이주여성들을 거주기간 별로 세 집단으로 나누고, 여러 가지 개인적 특성을 통제한 후 사회통합유형을 비교하였다. 이주여성들을 출신국가와 민족에 따라 중국 조선족, 중국 한족, 동남아 여성, ‘기타‘ 등 크게 네 집단으로 나누었다, 분석 결과에 의하면, 사회통합의 극히 일부 측면만 제외하고, 거주기간이 길어질수록 한국어 실력의 증가 등에 힘입어 한국사회에의 통합이 증진되었다. 사회통합의 속도는 민족 집단에 따라 상당히 상이하였지만, 장기적으로는 비슷한 수준의 사회통합에 도달하였다. 예를 들어, 노동시장참여나 자녀출산의 측면에서는, 이주 후 초기에 사회통합이 저조하였던 민족 집단이 거주기간의 증가에 따라 통합속도가 빨라져 7년 후 궁극적으로 다른 집단과 비슷한 수준의 통합에 이르렀다. 반면, 한국어 구사능력이나, 가깝게 지내는 이웃사람 수, 한국인 친구의 수, 이웃사람들과의 인간관계에 대한 만족도 등의 측면에서는 민족 집단 간의 통합수준의 차이에도 불구하고 모든 집단에서거주기간이 길어짐에 따라 통합수준이 일관되게 증가하였다. 혼인이주여성들의 한국 이민의 역사는 민족 집단에 따라 차이가 크다. 이들 간에 사회통합을 횡단적으로 비교하면 거주기간의 효과가 집단별 차이를 과장하거나 혹은 상쇄하게 될 것이다. 따라서 거주기간의 효과를 통제하는 것은 연구결과의 정책적 함의를 논의하는데 있어서 매우 중요할 것으로 보인다. 앞으로 거주기간의 효과를 더 정밀하게 분석하기 위하여 종단적 자료가 필요할 것이다.