May 10, 2011 09:22
More and more Koreans are getting away with gambling in foreigner-only casinos by using their residence permits in foreign countries, and the Foreign Ministry is making it easier for them by issuing residency passports in Korea without checking if their permanent addresses are really overseas.
A residency passport allows Koreans living abroad to stay in Korea indefinitely. There are 16 foreigner-only casinos in Korea which are theoretically off-limits to Korean nationals.
Kangwon Land, the only casino in Korea open to local citizens, is overflowing with gamblers, but a residency passport is all it takes to gain entry into a foreigner-only casino. And many gamblers who obtained their residency passports by shady means end up getting involved in fraud and other crimes.
Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency recently arrested 16 people on charges of illegal gambling on residency passports obtained by forging Ecuadorean residence permits and 29 others for issuing the fake documents.
"Certain South American and Southeast Asian countries consider the issuance of residence permits a source of tax revenue, so simply spending five days to a month in those countries is all it takes to get a residence permit through a broker," a police spokesman said.
According to the Foreign Ministry, an Ecuadorean residence permit can be obtained by staying there for just five days and a residency passport is issued within eight days if all the paperwork is filed properly. The number of Koreans with foreign residence permits and residency passports rose some 6 percent from 95,824 in 2006 to 101,300 in 2010.
It is virtually impossible to prevent abuse under present laws. A Foreign Ministry official said, "It takes about two months to verify suspicious residence permits, but we're required under present laws to issue a residency passport within eight days, so we have to hand out the passports without being able to verify the applicants."
The ministry says a revised law is awaiting passage in the National Assembly. It requires foreign residence permit holders to have their foreign addresses written on their citizen's registration cards to abolish the residency passport system.
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