Ethnic Koreans scramble to utilize new visa rule

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Ethnic Koreans scramble to utilize new visa rule

A 50-year-old ethnic Korean-Chinese surnamed Lee, who works as a carpenter, is one of many with Korean ethnicity with great interest in acquiring a government-certified vocational certificate, so he can earn an F-4 visa from the Korean government.

A new immigration measure was added to F-4 visas in April of last year, enabling foreign workers with Korean roots to stay in the country as long as they maintain a government-certified vocational license.

The measure was intended to encourage ethnic Koreans to land high-skilled employment rather than working for low-paying jobs.

Aware of the legal benefits he would have with a government-approved vocational certificate, Lee visited a hagwon, or vocational academy, in Guro District, western Seoul.

The head of the academy promised him he would pass the vocational certification test on metal craftsmanship once he received the curriculum organized by the institute.

Lee, hopeful of passing the test, paid 1.4 million won ($1,275) for a two-month-program.

However, he soon discovered the quality of the academy class was poor because it was hurriedly organized.

He then failed the qualification exam in December last year.

“The private training centers target foreign workers with Korean ethnicity here by exploiting how desperately we need to gain F-4 visas,” Lee told the JoongAng Ilbo.

The case of Choi and Kim, a couple with Korean ethnicity, is another telling story how vulnerable many Korean descendants in the country are to tricks by vocational academies.

As their H-2 visas, which allows them to live in the country for five years, were scheduled to expire by June this year, the couple registered for a class curriculum to acquire a metal craftsmanship certificate at an academy located in Gunpo, Gyeonggi.

The training center guaranteed they would pass the test.

But when they failed, it suggested they take another certificate test that was not approved by the government.

“They tried to make us sign up for a class that will not help us settle in the country,” said the husband.

A number of vocational institutes have emerged around Guro District in southwestern Seoul, where a large number of ethnic Korean-Chinese immigrants reside, in recent years as the new immigration measure was put in place by the Ministry of Justice last year.

By Lee Ji-eun [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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