By Park Si-soo
Foreigners will get permanent residence status from Sept.1 when they invest more than $500,000 and employ more than five Koreans.
The plan will be put into effect after getting approval from Cabinet, according to the Justice Ministry.
This move came as part of the Lee Myung-bak administration's business-friendly policies to draw more foreign investment to revitalize the economy.
``Current laws have been so rigorous as to discourage many foreign investors from establishing start-ups here,'' Lee Ki-heun, a deputy director of the justice ministry, told The Korea Times. ``Instead, non-Koreans have opted for the short-term investment visa (D-8).''
Under the law, the government immediately grants the status to foreigners investing more than $2 million with five Korean employees. But those investing $500,000 with three Korean employees are required to stay for at least three years to win the status.
``By easing the rule, we expect to see an increase of non-Koreans with stable residence status and their brisk investment in Korea,'' Lee said.
According to the ministry, about 8,000 foreigners are residing here with the D-8 visa ― Japanese investors ranked first with 1,800, followed by Chinese with 1,400. Pakistani and American investors came next with 700, respectively.
Those winning the status can enjoy almost the same social status as Korean citizens. They can stay in the country as long as they wish unless they commit serious crimes. Permanent residents can be employed by any company except those in the gambling industry. Under the election law, they can participate in elections picking provincial assembly members. Presidential and parliamentary elections are not available to them