Monday, July 2, 2012


Employment and Labor Minister holds meeting with ambassadors of countries sending workers to Korea under Employment Permit System

Jun 26 2012

On June 26th (Tue.) Lee Chae-pil, the Minister of Employment and Labor, held a meeting with the ambassadors of the 15 countries*, including Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia, which send workers to Korea under the Employment Permit System.

* Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Cambodia, China, Bangladesh, Nepal, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar and East Timor

The meeting was arranged in order to promote friendly relations between Korea and the 15 sending countries, to share mutual understanding of challenges ahead, and to find ways of cooperation.

At the meeting, the Ministry of Employment and Labor (MOEL) said, "When the Employment Permit System was introduced in 2004, there were many difficulties in terms of system designing, infrastructure building and so on. However, it has developed into a system that was recognized by the ILO as Asia's pioneering migration management system and selected as the first place winner of the UN Public Service Award," and expressed its thanks to the sending countries for their cooperation.

After the introduction of the Employment Permit System, the sending process became transparent. As a result, the cost a foreign worker pays to get employment in Korea went down by one-fourth to $927 from the $3,509 recorded under the Industrial Trainee System.

MOEL ensures that Korean and foreign workers are protected by labor laws without any discrimination, and prevents violations of such laws through annual guidance and inspection for 4,000~5,000 workplaces employing foreign workers.
With a view to supporting foreign workers' stay in Korea, MOEL runs a call center where foreign workers can receive counseling services in their own languages, and 34 support centers for foreign workers nationwide, which provide Korean language education as well as grievance counseling.

In addition, for foreign workers who go back to their home countries after the end of their employment period, MOEL implements a program to support their return to their countries and a system allowing them to re-enter Korea.

* Returnee support program : informing prospective returnees of their departure deadlines (sending SMS text messages three times); holding an information session for returnees; providing skills and business start-up training to help them settle down in their countries; helping them to find work in Korean firms in their countries; and running a community group among returnees.

** Re-entry system : Foreign workers who worked in the agriculture, livestock and fisheries industries and small manufacturing firms without changing workplaces and then returned to their countries can re-enter Korea after a lapse of three months. Other foreign workers can re-enter Korea after a lapse of six months if they have passed a special Korean language test.

Meanwhile, MOEL laid out the challenges it should address together with the sending countries, and asked for their active cooperation.

First, some foreign workers whose employment period has ended are staying illegally in Korea. And the number of foreign workers who should go back to their countries is expected to reach 67,000 this year. Considering this, MOEL strongly called for the sending countries' active efforts to reduce illegal foreign workers.

In relation to this, MOEL made clear that for countries with a large share of illegal foreigners, it could not help cutting the number of newly arrived foreign workers.

Second, MOEL requested restraint to avoid too frequent workplace changes, saying that workplace changes make it difficult for workers to accumulate their skills and intensify labor shortages in businesses.

In particular, MOEL asked the sending countries to ensure that workers should not move to another workplace just a few days after their arrival in Korea or due to any friction with their employers, such as intentional slowdown. The sending countries were also requested to manage their workers well to prevent foreign workers from being deceived by brokers and suffering the consequences in the process of changing workplaces.

Third, MOEL has recently developed a standard Korean language textbook and distributed its copies to sending countries. So MOEL asked each sending country to produce explanatory and supplementary materials in its own language and thus to make better use of the standard textbook.

Lee Chae-pil, the Minister of Employment and Labor, stressed, "Close cooperation between the Korean government and the governments of the sending countries is essential for the successful operation of the Employment Permit System." He also said, "We strongly call on the sending countries to take active measures to prevent foreign workers from remaining illegally in Korea after the end of their employment period this year."


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