Illegal workers in South Korea: Amnesty for Thai nationals

Photo courtesy of Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn Facebook page

The Labour Ministry of Thailand has approached the South Korean government to consider granting amnesty to around 150,000 Thai workers currently residing and working unlawfully in South Korea. The plea was made yesterday by Labour Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn.

Phiphat met with his South Korean counterpart, Lee Jeong-sik, in Seoul on Wednesday, March 13, to examine the predicament. According to Phiphat, approximately 7,000 Thai nationals, who were working unlawfully in South Korea, were sent back home last year. However, the remaining count of Thai workers still tops among all foreign nationals working illegally in South Korea.

Most of these workers, Phiphat explains, initially migrated to South Korea through legal channels but became illegal workers when they switched employers. Phiphat proposed amnesty to Lee, explaining that the majority of these workers have been in the country for at least three to four years and have developed crucial skills, including proficiency in the Korean language. He requested assistance in securing legal work permits for these individuals.

The Thai labour minister also suggested that the Korean authorities could conduct skills tests before the grant of such permits. However, he confessed that the chance of such an amnesty being granted is minimal.

Lee reportedly expressed concerns about the proposal and promised to discuss the issue with the Justice Ministry and Immigration Bureau of South Korea. Additionally, the two ministers discussed the possibility of bringing in Thai workers on E7, E8, and E9 visas.

Phiphat stated that the South Korean government appreciates the quality of Thai workers but recommended that they improve their language skills to enhance their communication with their employers. Further discussions were held regarding the possibility of sending more Thai workers to work in South Korea’s agriculture and fishery industries.

The Bhumjaithai MP also revealed that four memorandums of understanding were signed during these discussions, reported Bangkok Post.

However, in response to rumours that Japan’s visa-free policy for Thai travellers might soon be cancelled due to the spike in illegal Thai workers in Japan, the Thai Foreign Affairs Ministry’s Consular Affairs Department confirmed that it is due to expire next year. Whether Tokyo will extend this policy remains uncertain.

Next month, Phiphat will be visiting Japan to discuss these issues further.

Bangkok NewsPolitics NewsThailand News

Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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