South Korea uncovers hundreds of undocumented workers on tourist visas

Foreign nationals entering South Korea on tourist visas have been working in the country without authorization, Seoul immigration authorities said Wednesday. File Photo by Jeon Heon-kyun/EPA

April 24 (UPI) — South Korea immigration authorities say they have found 635 people in breach of law, including suspects who used group tourist visas to enter the country to work without authorization.

The immigration office of Seoul’s justice ministry said Wednesday social media networks were used to track down undocumented immigrants from countries including China and Kazakhstan, Yonhap reported.

A total of 498 foreigners working without authorization were exposed, along with 44 brokers and 93 local employers, according to the report.

Employers are being fined for breach of law, and 494 foreigners face “compulsory eviction.”

Seoul says one broker helped 59 women from Kazakhstan enter the country on tourist visas. The women were hired to work illegally at an “adult entertainment establishment.”

A total of 304 Chinese nationals entered on a group tourist visa, but began working without authorization upon entry, according to records. Their broker went as far as paying for a hotel where they never stayed, according to Yonhap.

Chinese tourists are a key source of revenue for stores in key shopping districts in Seoul, and they could be returning to Korea in large numbers after years of unofficial sanctions.

South Korean news service Money Today reported Wednesday a total of 488,000 tourists from China visited the country in the first quarter of 2019, up more than 20 percent from same period of the previous year. More than 1.5 million foreigners entered Korea on tourist visas in the first three months of this year, according to the Korea National Tourism Organization.

Chinese tourism peaked in 2016, when more than 8.6 million Chinese visited Korea. That number fell dramatically following the deployment of the U.S. missile defense system THAAD, according to the report.


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