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

Beloved Lion Killing Sparks Virtual, Real Life Outrage

Twitter, as usual, was epicenter for anger directed at Palmer, with some questioning his manhood, calling for him to be released into the wild More

Video Booming London Property Market a Haven for Dirty Money

Billions of dollars from proceeds of crime, especially from Russia, being laundered through London property market, according to anti-corruption activists More

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

One former Scout leader thinks organization will move past political, social debate, get back to its primary focus of turning boys into good citizens More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs