Illegal immigrants in Korea shoot to 209,000

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Illegal immigrants in Korea shoot to 209,000

South Korea saw a spike in illegal immigrants last year, according to the immigration authority.

The number of illegal aliens in the country as of Dec. 31 last year was 208,778, up 14 percent from 183,106 in 2013 and the highest since 2007, according to statistics provided by the Korea Immigration Service.

In 2007, the total number of illegal aliens here was 223,464. The figure has been below 200,000 since then.

The 14 percent increase may not be so significant given that the ratio of illegal aliens to the total number of foreigners in Korea is actually declining. The ratio, which peaked at 27.9 percent in 2004, steadily decreased and hit 11.6 percent last year.

The total number of foreigners, which exceeded a million for the first time in 2007, was about 1.8 million at the end of last year, also a 14 percent increase from 2013. Foreigners took up 3.5 percent of the country’s total population in 2014, and 65.6 percent of them were living in Seoul, Incheon or Gyeonggi.

Because the immigration authority loosened visa regulations to attract more tourists to Korea, most of the increase in illegal immigrants last year were foreigners on short-term visas, who are supposed to stay in Korea for 90 days or less. Illegal immigrants with short-term visas increased to 112,788 last year, up 31.2 percent from 85,936 in 2013.

Out of the total 208,778 illegal immigrants, China topped the list with 70,311, followed by Thailand (44,283), Vietnam (26,932) and the Philippines (12,814).

BY KIM BONG-MOON [bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]


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