More Korean students stranded in Philippines

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More Korean students stranded in Philippines

The Philippine government has confiscated the passports of more than 150 Korean minors in raids on English centers illegally managed by Koreans, the Philippine foreign ministry told the Korea Joongang Daily yesterday.

Earlier this month, the Philippine media reported that 70 Korean kids studying in a language center in Batangas, a province south of Manila, had their passports confiscated by investigators from the Philippine Bureau of Immigration on Jan. 7. The reports said that none of the 70 children had study permits, which are required for foreigners studying in the Southeast Asian country.

Later, Korean diplomatic sources said 43 more Korean students were rounded up in similar operations.

Answering an e-mail request for information, the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines said 154 passports were confiscated during the raids, believed to have been conducted for several days beginning Jan. 7.

The Philippines is becoming an increasingly attractive destination for Korean parents to send children to learn English. According to people familiar with the industry, many Korean English institutes are operating four-week, eight-week or 12-week English courses in the Philippines during summer and winter school breaks.

The payment for the courses, approximately 2 million won ($1,780) to 3 million won per student, is supposed to cover 150,000 won for a study permit, but many Korean managers skip that step to earn a bigger profit. More than 10 Korean institute managers were rounded up in the raids and detained in the Philippines for investigation, Seoul officials said.

The DFA received tips about the illegal Korean institutions over the past year, it said, and raids began after a formal complaint from a legally operating language institute. No additional raids are being planned, it said.

The DFA said the Korean students caught in the raids will not be punished because they are victims of the Korean managers. In a Jan. 14 press release, Seoul’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said its request for the children’s return was accepted by Philippine authorities.

“The children will not be blacklisted and should have no problem returning to the Philippines,” the DFA said, after previously saying they would be blacklisted and deported. “The passports will be released to their parents or legal guardians at the airport before boarding.”

“The Bureau of Immigration believes that it has sent a strong message to those who operate English institutes without the necessary permits,” the DFA said. “The Bureau also notes that there has been a visible increase in compliance for securing Special Study Permits since the operation.”

By Moon Gwang-lip []
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