As per recommended by the National Human Rights Commission, the South Korean Justice Ministry in April came up with a conditional solution to the issue with illegal child immigrants. But only 21 children have applied for stay as of Monday. The Justice Ministry will allow for applications until Feb. 28, 2025. However, out of an estimated 13,000 illegal child immigrants, only 500 are expected to meet a set of conditions.
Illegal immigrants are forced by law to leave South Korea. However, if they have children under age, a whole family is allowed to stay in the country until their children come of age. Nevertheless, such children are not only disallowed to buy mobile phones under their names but also prohibited from creating accounts of websites such as NAVER. As they are not qualified to purchase insurance policies, they are not allowed to even join field trips. What's more, although they have built up their identity in South Korea, they have no option but to go to their parents’ home country, with which they are unfamiliar. The relief package by the Justice Ministry was devised to improve the human rights of such children living in the shadows.
However, there is criticism that the ministry has too strict standards to ensure the effectiveness of helping children in need. It is understandable that the Justice Ministry requires more than 15-year stay as a condition to prevent illegal immigrants from using children who are born on South Korean soil as a tool to extend their illegal stay. However, only less than four percent of children of illegal immigrants will become 15 years old by 2025. When illegal immigrants seek relief for their children, they have to pay a fine for illegal stay. Fines differ according to how long they have stayed in South Korea. More than seven-year stay requires up to 30 million won in fine. As it may give a financial burden to illegal immigrants, most of which struggle financially, only a few may apply for relief. Thus, the relief program does not live up to its name.
The youngest of family may be forced to leave the country when they grow up while elder ones raised by the same parents gain relief to attend colleges and get a job in South Korea. It may be an inevitable situation that follows as the program is only a temporary solution program. If it is not a permanent initiative anyway, the ministry needs to give relief benefits to a wider range of children by lessening conditions.