Establish an immigration officeA total of 1,445,103 foreigners lived in Korea as of 2012. Although 479,000 of them are simple laborers, as many as 50,000 are professionals who serve as managers or collaborators for new ventures here. According to findings by the JoongAng Ilbo, the size of the latter group is increasing, while that of the former is decreasing. That means it is time to change our government’s immigration policies.
Talented foreigners like software developers and engineers account for a considerable share of our economy. They are expected to play a crucial role in creating new and prosperous businesses through their expertise in new technologies and their international human networks. The policies will not only help them to achieve the “Korean Dream,” but will also help our economy take another leap.
Advanced countries have been competing to obtain overseas talent for a long time. Not just the United States, but European countries have also tried to take advantage of an immigrant workforce for their economic growth, with Germany - Europe’s economic powerhouse - having accepted 10.8 million foreigners, France 6.7 million and the United Kingdom 6.5 million. America, where immigrants last year accounted for 27.1 percent of the owners of start-ups, is considering creating a green card exclusively for start-up owners. Even Japan, a relatively exclusive society for foreign workers, has eased various restrictions on immigrants if they are professional workers.
That’s because professionals are crucial to enhancing a nation’s competitiveness. Korea, too, must mend its immigration policy for a better future. Attracting foreign talents meshes with the government’s goal of establishing a creative economy.
But there are problem with red tape in issuing visas and allowing permanent residence or citizenship. For instance, if foreigners want to naturalize to Korea, they have to find a guarantor, like a local government leader, lawyer or high-ranking civil servant. Even most Koreans would have trouble finding people like that. The government must do away with racial chauvinism first.
The government also must come up with a bold plan to attract talented foreigners in various fields so that people all over the world can make their Korean Dream come true. We propose the government consider establishing an immigration administration like the Immigration and Naturalization Service in the United States.