Wanted: nannies from Philippines

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Wanted: nannies from Philippines

Mrs. Jeong, a 38-year-old working mother, decided to hire a Philippine woman last year to work as a live-in housekeeper at her home in Yongsan District, central Seoul.

The woman she hired was staying in Korea illegally, having entered the country on a C-3 visa, which allows a 30-day temporary visit. Jeong was aware of this fact, but she went ahead with her plan anyway, paying the 39-year-old Southeast Asian maid a monthly wage of 1.5 million won ($1,410).

The deal saved Jeong quite a bit of cash. Had she employed a Korean nanny, she would have been paying at least 2 million won per month, maybe more depending on the candidate’s qualifications, references and tasks.

More Koreans like Jeong are hiring people from the Philippines to work as housekeepers and nannies, not only for the cheap labor but also for their proficiency in English.

Many busy mothers hope that having a maid fluent in English will help give their children a leg up in the early stages of their education.

Yet most of them have made these arrangements knowing full well that their housekeepers are in Korea illegally.

Those caught hiring illegal aliens and violating immigration laws face fines of around 10 million won.

The Incheon Airport Immigration Office, under the Ministry of Justice, stated on Wednesday that between April and December, 26 employers had reportedly hired Philippine housekeepers illegally. Twenty-two of the employers were consequently fined 93.5 million won.

Jeong’s housekeeper was caught by officials last July in a crackdown on illegal aliens in the country. She was fined 10 million won for violating the immigration law and her housekeeper was subsequently deported to the Philippines.

These kinds of activities came to light after a 44-year-old woman surnamed Lee was summoned to the Incheon District Prosecutors’ Office on Jan. 3 for illegally employing 54 Philippine housekeepers since 2009 and assigning them to households across the affluent Gangnam District.

Lee received on average about 100,000 won from each of the Philippine women under her supervision, and another 250,000 won from their employers. Over the year, she pocketed approximately 20 million won from her agency.

The employers in Gangnam paid the housekeepers between 1.5 million to 2 million won per month for their services.

Last year, a 41-year-old man surnamed Jeong, who lives in Seocho District in southern Seoul, was fined 6 million won for hiring a 34-year-old Philippine woman who was recommended by Lee. Jeong’s wife was an English proficiency test instructor at a popular private academy.

During the past year, the Philippine housekeeper lived with the Jeongs and tutored their elementary school-aged child in English.

For foreigners to work as a live-in housekeeper in Korea, they are required to hold an F-1 visa. Even for individuals with an E-2 teaching visa, it is illegal to live in an employer’s household as an English instructor.

The Ministry of Justice issues a limited number of F-1 visiting visas for employees of diplomats residing in Korea or individuals who have invested more than $500,000 here.

Experts say it is likely that most regular households who employ Philippine housekeepers or nannies have hired them illegally or are not aware that they are residing in Korea without proper documentation.

Those found guilty of hiring illegal foreign workers can be fined up to 20 million depending on the duration of employment and the number of people involved.

“As Philippine housekeepers have become more popular, the agencies that employ them have been thriving,” said Kim Jong-cheol, a senior investigator at the Incheon Airport Immigration Office. “We plan to continue cracking down on them.”

BY KIM HAN-BYEOL and SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]
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