Foreign students who run away for illegal work in South Korea will be put on a 'black list' and hardly get a chance to come back to South Korea.
They will also be wanted by police nationwide and could be fined US$5,000 and face imprisonment of up to six months.
On December 10, South Korea police officers were searching for 164 Vietnamese students enrolled at Incheon National University’s Korean Language School after they had not shown up in class for 15 days, Korean media reported.
The students are among 1,900 Vietnamese students on a one-year Korean language training program at the university.
“To come to Korea to study short-term language courses, many students have to pay millions of won to brokers in Vietnam," a spokesperson of Incheon National University was quoted by Yonhap as saying.
"They believe that the salary of illegal labor in Korea may be greater, so these illegal actions were taken."
Although the language course lasted for a year, these students suddenly vanished after only four months.
South Korean police have confirmed that the students ran away for illegal work.
According to the Korea Visa Application Center (KVAC), D4-1 is a Korea visa for a person who wants to study Korean language programs at language institues in South Korea.
This is the most popular visa for international students with simple conditions, such as being a foreigner, graduating from high school with a GPA from 5.0, having no criminal record, not subject to an immigration ban in Vietnam and South Korea, having no relatives who are illegally residing in South Korea, and others.
Due to the simple procedures and high visa acceptance rate, more and more Vietnamese youngsters are trying to come to South Korea by applying for the D4-1 visa.
However, because of the high rate of escaping for illegal labor, from January 1, 2020, international students who want to study Korean in South Korea must have the TOPIK 2 certificate to be qualified for the D4-1.
TOPIK is a test designed to measure the ability of non-native speakers in the Korean language, including six levels from one to six.
It is not cheap for Vietnamese students to come to South Korea to study the Korean language.
They usually have to pay broker centers to fulfill the enrollment procedures and visa application.
As Tuoi Tre News understands, the fee these centers charge is about $3,000-4,000, not including the money students are required to have in their savings book.
When coming to South Korea, students also face expensive living standards.
Therefore, many self-reliant foreign students have started to search for jobs after arriving in the East Asian country.
The average part-time salary in South Korea is about $7-10 per hour, Korea Herald data shows.
Full of risks
According to Korea Herald, many international students, including those from Vietnam, who are studying in South Korea have dropped out of school for illegal work because of the temptation to make money.
However, this action leads to a series of unpredictable consequences which firstly impact the students themselves.
According to the residence law in South Korea, foreign students who run away in this country will be included in the black list of the Korea Immigration Office and hardly have a chance to return to this country.
People who run away will be wanted by South Korea police nationwide and could be fined $5,000.
When arrested, they can serve up to six months in prison for police to investigate their illegal acts.
Escaping will also be divided into two cases.
In the first situation, if a student runs away for illegal labor while the visa is still valid, this person will not be chased by police. Those students can normally buy tickets to go back home when their visa expires.
Students whose visas have expired will obviously become illegal residents, causing them difficulty in renting a house or getting a job.
South Korea police will also pursue these students, making the absconders have to sneak around to avoid being arrested and deported from South Korea anytime.
While living and working, these people are usually victims of labor exploitation.
Eventually, the act of fleeing will affect the Korean visa policy for Vietnamese students in general.
Yonhap News Agency has assumed that this incident may lead Korean authorities to tighten the issuance of visas for Vietnamese students in the near future by formulating new regulations.
Vietnam's Ministry of Education and Training joins investigation
South Korea's Justice and Education Ministries have put together an inspection team to examine and evaluate Incheon University’s responsibility in managing foreign students.
The South Korean Immigration Department has been investigating the incident.
Vietnam's Ministry of Education and Training has joined the investigation into the whereabouts of the 164 Vietnamese students who have missed class in South Korea.
Pham Quang Hung, head of the International Relations Department at the education ministry, said the ministry is working on the case with the Vietnamese Embassy in South Korea, which has contacted the Incheon National University's Korean Language Institute for further information.
Hung added that the ministry would check if the Vietnamese students had gone to South Korea via illegal agents.
Vietnamese students are the fastest-growing group attending South Korean universities, second only to China in enrollment numbers, according to the National Institute for International Education figures under South Korea's Ministry of Education.
There are currently more than 37,400 Vietnamese students in South Korea, up 10,000 from last year, according to the National Institute for International Education of the South Korean Ministry of Education.