South Korea may cease taking Vietnamese laborers as more overstay

By Hoang Phuong   April 3, 2017 | 06:35 pm PT
South Korea may cease taking Vietnamese laborers as more overstay
Security check before a Korean language test in 2016. Photo by VnExpress/HP
More than 16,000 Vietnamese sent to South Korea last year overstayed their work visas.

South Korea may not further an agreement to take on Vietnamese workers if Vietnam fails to reduce the number of its laborers overstaying their visas to work illegally, a labor ministry official was quoted as saying.

South Korea has already blocked people from dozens of locations in Vietnam to apply to work in South Korea in 2017 due to a high rate of illegal workers, even though Seoul said it was now recruiting 3,600 Vietnamese labors, the labor ministry has said. 

Vietnam has sent 40,000 people to work in South Korea by the end of 2016, but South Korea advised that 39 percent of them had overstayed and been working illegally, said Dang Sy Dung, deputy director of the ministry's Department of Overseas Labor Management.

"If this problem is not fixed, it is certain that the number of  locations to face the blocking will rise, and we even have to face the possibility that South Korea will stop the agreement," Dung was quoted by Tuoi Tre newspaper as telling reporters Monday.

In 2012, South Korea stopped renewing a labor agreement signed with Vietnam in 2004 because the number of Vietnamese workers overstaying their visas to work illegally in South Korea rose to more than 50 percent. Seoul resumed the agreement only in December 2013 after the rate of illegal workers was cut to 38 percent.

This year South Korea needs Vietnamese workers for jobs in manufacturing, construction, fishery and agriculture and its blocking spares several localities in the two coastal provinces of Ha Tinh and Quang Binh, which have been hit by the Formosa environment disaster last year.

Vietnam and South Korea have pledged to work closely on measures to reduce the high rate of illegal workers, with South Korea planning to impose more fines on the companies which employ illegal workers from Vietnam, the overseas labor management department said in a report on its website.

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.

Vietnam has been sending more than 100,000 people each year to work overseas in the past five years as part of a government program to reduce poverty, while last year the number beat the annual target by about a quarter to reach 126,000, the labor ministry said.

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