Over the past several years, the issue of illegal immigration has increased rapidly in South Korea. After largely suspending immigration and customs enforcement due to the pandemic, the Korean governemnt has vowed to crackdown on illegal workers like never before in 2023.
Scanning for Illegal Workers
In October 2022, the government has resumed its crackdown on foreigners staying in Korea illegally and participating in activities outside of their visa, after pausing deportations due to the pandemic. The crackdown includes people who overstay their visas, students who do jobs without registering them, and workers who take on extra jobs outside of their visas.
According to the report, a total of 3,865 people were caught in the crackdown and 3,281 of them were forced to leave the country, the ministry said. By nationality, Thailand had the most at 1,441, followed by Vietnam with 814, China with 587, and Mongolia with 165.
Also, the immigration office cooperates with the Tax office to track down students who work without registering for a work permit. Your taxes can be shown in the system if your employer registers you as a part-time or full-time employee. This can go back to 2019.
Generally those with visas are not deported. Instead, it leads to a monetary fine from the immigration office, and can also causes difficulty in your visa extension/visa changing process.
What’s New in 2023?
Since January 2023, the government has shown increasing efforts in scanning for illegal workers. Nowadays, everyone who has worked illegally or who overstays their visa are given a choice to go back home through the voluntary departure program.
At the end of 2022, the Yonhap news agency reported that an additional 7,378 illegal immigrants left the country through the voluntary departure program. It is a program in which a fine exemption and suspension of entry restrictions are granted.
Dispute Over the Illegal Workers
Many people agree that illegal workers may damage the image of Korea and also negatively affects people who struggle to work legally here. But there are other opinions that illegal workers in fields such as logistics or delivery are actually contributing to the Korean economy. They work for cheaper and there is an enormous force of foreign workers who can do this job. This is a way for the economy to grow. Given the country’s low birth rate and aging population, there is a need for both ‘high’ and ‘low’ skill labor.
On the other hand, some people disagree with illegal workers since the illegal working field can cause social harm. A prime example of this is illegal workers’ prevalience in areas such as entertainment and massage services. Such fields often lead to sexual exploitation in Korea.
Outsourcing for foreign workers both in high and low-skill labor has been reported to be increasing in recent years. Immigration is seen as a must for Korea since the economy is rapidly growing while its population is rapidly aging. And the government is opening many opportunities for workers to come to Korea legally. Therefore, those illegal workers need to be reduced for legal workers to be increased.