S. Korea to reopen labor market to Vietnamese migrant workers

By Yonhap   May 16, 2016 | 07:58 am GMT+7

South Korea will reopen its labor market to Vietnamese migrant workers starting in 2017, the government said Sunday.

In 2012, Seoul stopped allowing Vietnamese nationals the right to work in the country after a large number stayed on despite the expiration of their work visas.

South Korea operates an employment permit system where companies can ask the government to allow the employment of foreign workers. Authorities have the right to permit or reject the request based of the validity of the requirements, as well as factoring in other local labor market-related considerations.

"A memorandum of understanding on the resumption of Vietnamese migrant workers will be reached at talks between Labor Minister Lee Ki-kweon and his Vietnamese counterpart, Dao Ngoc Dung, in Hanoi," the ministry said. Lee is expected to arrive in Vietnam on Tuesday.

It said that the pact comes as South Korean businesses have been clamoring for the lifting of the Vietnamese workers' ban. Local businessmen have praised workers from the Southeast Asian country for their ability to adapt to local working conditions and acquire job-related skills very quickly, making them valued employees.

Related to the decision, the labor ministry said that it took the step of lifting the ban after Hanoi drew up a 2016-2018 road map that aims to better regulate its people who stay in foreign countries illegally.

Besides the migrant worker issue, the labor ministers of the two countries are to touch on issues ranging from Vietnam's industrial safety, a labor information system and labor laws.

Besides the migrant worker matter, Lee will meet with Vietnam's Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam and discuss such topics as expanding personnel exchanges and resolving business-related red tape which has been cited for hindering further investment.

Some 3,300 South Korean companies have set up operations in Vietnam, and there are some 10,000 Korean employees working for these firms. Hanoi has started to tighten rules on issuing skilled worker visas which is making it harder for South Korean young adults to be hired at these firms.