July 06, 2023 11:05
Labor migrants arriving in Korea will be allowed to work only in designated areas starting in September. The aim is to prevent foreigners who arrive on a visa to work in rural areas from disappearing into the capital's gray economy shortly afterward.
An official at the Labor Ministry said, "The measure comes in response to dwindling populations in rural areas and overcrowding in the capital. Germany also has a system limiting the work locations of foreigners for a certain period."
Asked if it infringes the freedom of movement of foreign workers, the official said, "It's inevitable since most foreign workers tend to move to Seoul shortly after arriving in the country."
Businesses in the provinces often complain that foreign workers they recruited quickly switch to other jobs. An estimated 31.5 percent of foreign workers move to new jobs less than a year after arriving in Korea.
Foreign workers are not allowed to change workplaces for the first three years of their arrival, and exceptions can only be made in certain circumstances like their employer going bankrupt. But if their employer does not allow them to move, many foreign workers have been known to protest by staging go-slows that make them useless in the job.
The ministry also decided to offer incentives to foreign workers who stay with their employer for an extended period. Until now, they are allowed to work in Korea for a maximum of four years and 10 months and cannot then apply for a new work visa for the next six months. But now foreigners who have stayed with one employer for a certain time will be able to stay for another four years and 10 months.
Those who work for one company for more than a year will be allowed to come back to Korea after just one month rather than six.
The manager of a lumber yard in South Chungcheong Province said, "Last month, two workers from Cambodia left after working here for four years and 10 months, and they were able to return soon. We can now retain experienced foreigners who are able to manage other foreign workers."
The ministry will also let businesses offering lodging to foreign workers apply for refunds commensurate with rates in their respective region and hire more foreign workers.
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