The Foreign Ministry has begun investigating illegal visa applications after a mysteriously large quantity of the applications was received at the Korean Consulate General in Shenyang, China.
The ministry speculates that a Consulate employee colluded with local visa brokers or that the online visa application system was hacked.
In April, the government began issuing visas for short-term visits to ethnic Koreans with foreign passports, allowing for stays of up to 90 days in a three-year period. Demand for the visa has soared as it is relatively easier to obtain than other visas issued for Korean descendants or temporary foreign workers.
Due to the rush to obtain visas, the Consulate General in Shenyang started taking reservations both online and via visa agencies in late March, with a cap of 500 applications per day. As of early April, 120,000 Korean Chinese had made reservations, forcing others to wait until April next year to file applications for the visa.
But early this month the Consulate General discovered some 2,700 visa applications which were not received within the official application period but were somehow filed through the online visa application system.
The ministry suspects that travel agencies or visa brokers there hacked the system as they can charge large sums of money and promise customers help in the visa application process.