2 out of 10 Foreign 'Language Students' Are Illegals

  • By You So-yeon

    December 06, 2019 12:18

    Two out of 10 foreigners who ostensibly come here to learn Korean are working here illegally, according to the Ministry of Education.

    The ministry on Thursday unveiled plans to strengthen the screening of foreigners applying for Korean language courses at universities here because in many cases, especially at minor private universities, they are actually here to work illegally and their university place is merely a smokescreen.

    Of the 160,000 foreign students who came here this year, 44,000 are ostensibly studying Korean.

    Under the new plans, universities with a good track record of managing bona fide foreign students will be given preference in visa issuance for their intake as well as other benefits.

    The ministry will also start reviewing universities' Korean language courses separately from other undergraduate and graduate courses.

    To screen out profiteering private universities that know full well that they will never see hide nor hair of these, they will be evaluated on their ability to actually teach them based on their number of language instructors and other features.

    They will now be required to keep their proportion of foreign students who abuse their student visas below 10 percent for Korean language courses. For undergraduate and graduate programs, the standard will be even stricter at 1.5 to 2.5 percent.

    Those with a high proportion of perceived abusers of the system -- 20 percent for Korean language courses and five percent for other subjects -- will be put on a watchlist for visa screening.

    The number of abusers has surged, rising from 5,652 in 2016 to a whopping 13,945 last year, and 90 percent were language students, 65 percent of them from Vietnam.

    That translates into 23 percent of all foreign language students here, compared to 1.6 percent of international students in other programs.

    Shin Mi-kyoung at the ministry said, "Most foreign students who work here illegally come on student visas to study Korean but then fail to leave when their visas expire. We need to make sure that foreign applicants are not seeking to come here to work."  

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