South Korean government nabs 8,300 illegal working migrants in big crackdown
The number of illegal workers caught is up 14 per cent, and up 44 per cent in construction alone
By Ko Dong-hwan
The government has nabbed over 8,300 foreigners without valid working visas in a bid to stop illegal migrants taking jobs from Koreans.
The Ministry of Justice and four other ministries formed four teams of investigators and targeted selected urban areas. The operation continued for 11 weeks from February 26, catching 8,351 illegal migrants ― 1,297 of whom came from construction sites ― and 1,369 employers who hired them.
The joint investigation, including the National Police Agency, the Ministry of Employment and Labor and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, searched around Seoul’s Namguro Station in Guro-gu and Ansan Station in the city of Ansan, February 27, where foreigners without valid working visas often seek work. The authorities also kept a watch on construction and other sites for six weeks.
In March, the Presidential Committee on Job Creation, headed by President Moon Jae-in, met public commissioners and construction bosses to discuss how to curb the hiring of foreigners without work visas. The high-profile roundtable was joined by the ministries of justice, employment and labour, and land, infrastructure and transport.
The number of illegal aliens caught this year is up 14 per cent from last year. In the construction industry, the figure has increased 44 per cent. The government targeted the industry in its latest raids because more migrants than Koreans have been hired in recent years.
Foreigners caught are deported while those who employed them can be jailed for up to three years or fined up to 20 million won (US$18,600).
The investigation also found that 10,729 illegal migrant workers left voluntarily, up from last year’s 8,142, thanks to the government’s campaign that encouraged them to leave without an immigration infringement record.
The justice ministry said it plans another crackdown in the second half of this year, expanding investigative teams to six to cover more regions.