Thais told not to run away from touring bands in Korea
3-day trips “front for migration racketeering”
A performer performs a traditional Korean dance with a classical ‘khon’ dancer during a cross-cultural arts performance organized by the Korean Cultural Center in Thailand in May. The show promoted cultural exchanges between the two countries. (Photo: Pornprom Satrabhaya)
The Ministry of Labor is urging Thais seeking to work in South Korea to register with the relevant authorities before departure, instead of fleeing tour groups once they arrive on Korean soil, as this threatens to harm the cooperation between the two countries.
A source in the ministry said the government was working hard to tackle the problem of phi noi or “little ghosts” – Thai workers who travel to South Korea to work illegally – whose numbers have increased since Seoul opened the country’s borders to tourism in April.
Even before the pandemic, an estimated 140,000 Thais were working illegally in South Korea, far more than the 22,000 who had work permits in the country.
When South Korea opened its borders to tourism in April, it allowed tourists visa-free entry, provided they register for a Korean Electronic Travel Authorization (K-ETA) before arriving in the country. country. However, tourists to Jeju Island – a popular romantic getaway for couples – were initially not required to register for a pre-trip permit.
Many Thai workers seeking to migrate to South Korea jumped at the chance, but many were turned away by immigration authorities at the border. In fact, the ministry source said that more than half of passengers on at least two charter flights to Jeju have recently been denied entry.
In response to the increase in illegal attempts to stay in the country, South Korean authorities recently began requiring travelers to Jeju to register for a K-ETA.
Thai authorities are concerned that the persistent problem may have a negative impact on other areas of bilateral cooperation, particularly in the labor sector.
For example, Seoul allows a fixed number of Thais to work in certain sectors each year, and prospective employees can seek employment through the official work permit system, which it has set up to facilitate such exchanges. Failure to resolve the issue may result in termination of these privileges.
“We are working with the South Korean authorities to resolve the issue to ensure that the Thai labor quota is not reduced,” the source said.
Under the current agreement, Thai workers between the ages of 18 and 39, who do not suffer from congenital and communicable diseases and who do not have a criminal record are eligible to apply for employment in South Korea through the EPS.
That said, the system does require applicants to pass a Korean language proficiency test, a requirement that many Thai applicants struggle to meet, the source said.
The source noted that of the 40,000 applicants each year, only about 2,000 pass, the majority of whom are women. South Korean companies, however, prefer to hire men, as they are considered more capable of enduring harsh working conditions.
Addressing the Bangkok Post, Labor Minister Suchart Chomklin said the ministry will work with the Ministry of Sports and Tourism to stamp out cheap tours in South Korea, which are nothing more than a front for migrants who illegally go abroad. foreigner looking for work.
Authorities will focus on companies offering three-day all-inclusive packages for as little as 13,000 baht per person, which the minister called “impossible” to justify.