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

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid