S Korea closes labor door to Hanoi, Vietnam provinces as many overstay

By Hoang Phuong   March 30, 2017 | 08:19 pm PT
S Korea closes labor door to Hanoi, Vietnam provinces as many overstay
People line up for a Korean language exam in Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Phuong
The country is blocking applicants from Hanoi and 10 provinces, except those from areas hit by an environmental catastrophe.

South Korea is recruiting 3,600 Vietnamese workers but it has blocked applicants from Hanoi and 10 northern and central provinces due to a high rate of illegal workers, Vietnam's labor ministry has said.

The ministry said it has been requested by the South Korean government to blacklist Hanoi, the northern provinces of Bac Ninh, Hai Duong, Hung Yen, Nam Dinh, Phu Tho and Thai Binh, as well as provinces of Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, Ha Tinh and Quang Binh in the central region. More than 30 percent of workers sent from these localities are overstaying their visas, it said.

If those localities manage to lower the rates by the end of the year, they might be considered for recruitment in 2018, the ministry said.

But the restriction is not imposed on eight areas affected by the Formosa environment disaster last year in the coastal provinces of Ha Tinh and Quang Binh.

As of February 2017, all workers from several districts in the provinces of Phu Tho and Ha Tinh have completed their contracts but none of them have returned, according to figures from the ministry.

Vietnam and South Korea first signed a labor agreement in 2004, which was due to expire in 2014. But South Korea suspended the cooperation in August 2012 after it found Vietnamese workers often did not leave the country after their contracts had ended. It resumed the agreement for one year in December 2013 after the rate of illegal workers dropped to 38 percent from 50 percent.

The illegal workers, all coming from impoverished neighborhoods, have said they decided to overstay their visas because it was easier to find good income in South Korea.

Vietnamese workers in South Korea receive a minimum wage of more than $1,000 a month and work 40 hours a week, according to official reports. Back home, by comparison, workers would receive a minimum wage of between $120-175 and often have to work extra hours.

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