Crackdown on Illegal Foreigners Extended to December
By Park Si-soo
The Ministry of Justice said Sunday it will extend the crackdown on foreigners overstaying their visas until the end of the year.
The move comes as the number of undocumented foreigners, particularly foreign workers, has been increasing. It is estimated that nearly 184,000 or 15.9 percent of 1.16 million foreign residents have overstayed their visas.
Since September, the Ministry of Labor and the Small and Medium Business Administration have been on a nationwide campaign that encourages undocumented foreigners to leave the country on their own and so far more than 2,500 have left the country.
Those who leave voluntarily have been exempt from fines and allowed to set foot on Korean territory again only one year after their departure, the ministry said.
Meanwhile, tough sanctions are to be imposed on Korean firms employing undocumented foreigners. Many small- and medium-sized companies here have hired foreigners whose residency here is unjustifiable to save labor costs.
Those found to have hired such foreigners will be fined up to 20 million won ($17,000) and prohibited from hiring foreign laborers for the next three years, it said.
"The campaign result was lower than expected," said Sung Rak-seung, an official involved in the upcoming crackdown. "Those who leave the country after the crackdown begins will also receive the same advantage as others who leave voluntarily."
In fact, this is a sort of periodic measure put into practice when the number of illegal foreigners reaches an alarming level.
Such an intense crackdown has been recognized by the authorities as an efficient way to reduce the number, but they have also been under fire from the foreign communities for alleged recklessness and inhumanity.
In the latest crackdowns, scores of undocumented foreign workers were injured while leaping from factory buildings. Some had their legs and even spinal cord broken. Among the injured were pregnant women.
To help remove such side effects, the government in May set out a guideline and a code of conduct that immigrant officers must abide by when apprehending or conducting raids on undocumented foreigners.
The rule mandates that at least one female officer participate in every crackdown, in case of the arrest or body search of women. It also requires every investigating squad to have an official recording of procedures and practices as evidence in any legal dispute that may arise during a crackdown. Officers must submit a detailed investigation plan to their boss before raids.