Thousands of Vietnamese queue for Korean jobs

By Duc Hung   January 31, 2024 | 08:07 pm PT
Thousands of Vietnamese queue for Korean jobs
Hundreds of people wait at the Nghe An Province's employment service center to sign up for jobs in South Korea, Jan. 30, 2024. Photo by VnExpress/Hung Le
Around 10,000 people from the north-central provinces of Nghe An and Ha Tinh have been lining up over the last five days to sign up for work in South Korea.

Tuesday was the deadline for workers in Nghe An to sign up for the Employment Permit System (EPS), which could allow them to work abroad in South Korea.

At the employment service center on Phong Dinh Cang Street of Vinh City, hundreds of people came to complete signup procedures. Many of them had worked in South Korea before. Over 20 employees at the center worked all day to handle all the applications.

Nguyen Thi Xuan, 36, said that due to the sheer number of people lining up, she had to wait all morning until her turn. After 10 minutes of filling forms and paying a $28 fee, she escaped the crowd.

"I used to work abroad in Taiwan for VND20 million ($819), and I just returned to Vietnam last year. I have three growing children, and both I and my husband did not have stable jobs, so I wanted to try out the EPS to come to South Korea to work in agriculture and raise my kids," she said.

Several people in mountainous districts like Ky Son, Quy Chau and Quy Hop also rode in on buses, some traversing 100-250 km to get to Vinh and sign up for the EPS. Some waited whole days and had to rent out hotel rooms to rest in, before returning to the center to queue next morning.

Tran Quoc Tuan, director of the Nghe An employment service center, said the facility had been receiving applications since Jan. 26. So far, around 6,000 people have signed up for Korean language examinations to apply for EPS, compared to last year's 3,700 people.

"The facility receives applications in districts and towns. Due to the sheer number of candidates, there have been days when officials had to work until 11 p.m. before all the procedures were dealt with," Tuan said.

In Ha Tinh, the local employment service center has also been receiving hundreds of EPSW applicants. The facility had been receiving applications until Tuesday as well. Procedures have been laid out so that people sit in rooms and wait for their numbers to show up on the screen, so there has not been any jostling in line this year.

Phan Van Long, 30, said he braved the cold to catch a bus from Huong Son District to sign up for the program. He used to work in Laos but the pay was fickle, so he studied Korean in hopes to land a job there in manufacturing. He hopes to make enough money to eventually find a spouse in the future.

"If I luckily pass the examination and get an appropriate job, I can earn over VND40 million a month in South Korea. To get this amount of money back home, I would have to work with all I got for 4-5 months," he said.

Nguyen Thi Thanh Huong, director of the Ha Tinh employment service center, said the facility had seen over 3,500 applicants, twice as many as the same time last year. She said the influx of applicants was due to the fact that the EPS has been suspended in Nghi Xuan and Cam Xuyen for a time, so when it was reopened, it attracted even more people.

"The EPS examination is expected to be held in April. Last year, candidates in central Vietnam took the exams in Da Nang, and for this year, we are compiling numbers throughout the country to finalize a location," Huong said.

This year, over 15,400 workers are expected to be selected for the EPS, with manufacturing taking over 11,200 workers, 200 in construction, 900 in agriculture and 3,000 in fishery. The agriculture and fishery sectors in particular choose workers who belong to ethnic minorities and live in certain areas with poor economic conditions.

Applicants will need to pass two rounds of tests, with no guarantee whether they will be selected or not. Authorities recommend people continue working their current jobs while waiting for the results.

Tens of thousands of workers from Nghe An and Ha Tinh are working in South Korea, but thousands have decided to stay illegally and work outside jobs. Certain districts have banned EPS exams due to illegal workers, including Nghe An's Nghi Loc and Hung Xuyen Districts, as well as Ha Tinh's Cam Xuyen and Nghi Xuan Districts.

On Jan. 9, the Center of Overseas Labor issued documents saying the ban would be temporarily lifted, allowing people from eight districts in Hai Duong, Thanh Hoa, Nghe An and Ha Tinh to participate in the exams.

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