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[Editorial] Prudent Approach to Foreign Workers Issue

Posted July. 18, 2002 22:23,   


The government measures to improve treatment of foreign workers are not only unworkable. But also the measures could cause serious side effects. It is questionable whether the government could really capture all illegal immigrants within 8 months and deport them all while having turned a blind eye to 270,000 industrial trainees and illegal immigrants for years since 1993. The government is planning to induce them leave by exempt illegal immigrants who report voluntarily to the authorities from fine and grant an opportunity for reentry. But it is uncertain how much the scheme would pay off since illegal immigrants benefit more by staying here than departing the nation voluntarily.

On top of that, sudden departure of 270,000 illegal foreigners would leave koreas 3D industry sector such as construction in very difficult situation due to the labor forces shortage and accelerate the shift of manufacturing base to oversea. Consequently, it would undermine the competitiveness in the labor intensive industry.

The plan to legalize Korean-chinese workers who have been working in the service industry despite their expired visa or illegal status is also worrisome. Since this plan could trigger some workers to flock to the service industry with better working condition, leaving the manufacturing industry. Expanding the range of service where foreign workers are qualified might erode Korean peoples job security.

Most of all, the government should step up foreign personnel management. The existing system stipulates that foreigners, who illegally enter the country and stay in the nation even though the length of visit is passed, are subject to fine of 5 million won and below. But with this generous system, the government cannot root out illegal influx or stay of foreign workers. There have been a number of accidents, in which illegal immigrants died while smuggling themselves to Korea. In a way, such tragedies were triggered by Korea`s lax management of foreign workers.

The government should also lay out proper countermeasures for wage extortion and human rights abuse by dishonest employers and medical treatment for industrial disaster victims. There was time when Korean workers went to Germany and to the Middle East to make money. If we forget our hardship in the past and maltreat foreign workers, who visit Korea to make money, the national image will significantly be deteriorated.