News / Asia

Ethnic Koreans from China Hit by Seoul Visa Policy

Kim Young-hwang has been working construction jobs in South Korea for about eight years (VOA/Jason Strother).Kim Young-hwang has been working construction jobs in South Korea for about eight years (VOA/Jason Strother).
x
Kim Young-hwang has been working construction jobs in South Korea for about eight years (VOA/Jason Strother).
Kim Young-hwang has been working construction jobs in South Korea for about eight years (VOA/Jason Strother).
Jason Strother
SEOUL - In recent decades, South Korea has relied on migrant labor to help keep its economy running.  The majority of those foreign workers are from northeast China, but ethnically Korean. This year, about 70,000 of these workers will have to return home because their visas are set to expire - a policy that many claim is unfair.

Kim Young-hwang has been working construction jobs in South Korea for about eight years.  The 35-year-old is an ethnic Korean from Harbin, China and sends money back home to support his family.

He says life in South Korea is pretty good. The money he earns here is a lot more than he could earn in China.

But one thing about life here does not sit well with Kim.

He says ethnic Koreans from China, known as Joseonjok, are not treated equally compared with Koreans from other countries.

Kim says ethnic Koreans from wealthy nations like Japan or the U.S., are treated much better.  They can travel back and forth as they like. He says Chinese-Koreans are treated like foreigners from a poor country.

Kim says what is most unfair are the types of visas Joseonjok receive compared to other ethnic Koreans.

Korean-Americans for example are granted working visas that are renewable every few years.  But Koreans from China are only allowed to stay in South Korea for five years then must return home. 

This year, the visas of 70,000 Joseonjok are set to expire.

And many do not want to go back to China, says Kim Sook-ja, who runs an advocacy group for other Joseonjok like herself.  She says it will be very hard for them to make a living there.

She says, most of the Joseonjok here already sold their homes or businesses back in China and have no work to do there.  And based on the current exchange rate, Korean money they saved just does not go as far as it used to in China.    

Some analysts say that while South Korea’s immigration policy might seem unfair to Joseonjok, it is an economic necessity.

"There is the possibility of these Joseonjok taking jobs from many Korean people.  There are much more job opportunities for the Joseonjok especially in unskilled jobs," says Park Young-bum, who lectures at Seoul’s Hansung University.

He says there is the possibility that they will take jobs away from Korean people. He says there are more opportunities for the Joseonjok, especially in unskilled jobs.

Park adds that under South Korean immigration law, foreigners that stay for five years are able to apply for citizenship.  And that could cause public resentment.

Joseonjok already have a tarnished reputation after one immigrant was involved in a high profile murder of a South Korean woman earlier this year.

Advocate Kim Sook-ja says the incident has caused a backlash against the entire community.

"It is a shame that one person can ruin the image for 600,000 other Joseonjok," Kim says. "Many South Koreans have since looked down on us as a group. They do not consider us as Koreans like them."

She says her organization is trying to help bridge the gap between South Koreans and Joseonjok.

Kim Young-hwang says he too has felt more discrimination in recent months. But it has not effected his desire to stay in South Korea. His visa expires in August and he is now studying for a test that could allow him to switch to a more permanent visa if he passes.

Kim says he is really worried about going back to China. He has gotten used to living here and it will be difficult to find a job.

Kim says if he does have to go back, then he will just apply for another 5-year work visa and do it all over again.

You May Like

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs