By Park Si-soo
Research has shown that unregistered immigrant workers “have no direct causal relation” with the recent increase in crimes committed by foreigners.
The number of unregistered foreigners has remained steady at around 200,000 since 2004, while the number of foreigners who committed crimes surged five times to 34,900 in 2008 from 6,800 in 2001, according to Choi Young-sin, a senior researcher at the Korean Institute of Criminology.
“This shows that the change in the number of unregistered foreigners cannot fully explain the rise in the number of foreign crimes,” Choi said. “There is no clear causal relationship between the two.”
Rather, he claimed that the increase in the number of total foreigners ― both registered and unregistered ― has a greater causal factor with increasing foreign crimes.
The finding is expected to deal a blow to the government’s crackdown on unregistered foreigners ― mostly working at small and mid-sized factories ― as part of its efforts to boost security ahead of the G20 summit in November in Seoul.
“It’s a dominant idea that illegal immigrants are to blame for most felonious crimes by foreign nationals. But the increase is a result of the rise in the number of the total foreign population here,” Choi said.
According to the research based on statistics offered by the justice ministry and foreign ministry, the total foreign population in Korea nearly doubled to 1.16 million in 2008 from 566,835 in 2001.
During the same period, foreign crimes also surged to 34,914 cases in 2008 from 6,812 cases in 2001.
But the number of illegal immigrants moved up and down almost every single year, depending on the extent of government crackdowns.
“There are a variety of factors behind a criminal trend, meaning it’s inappropriate to solely blame the increasing crime rates on illegal migrants,” Choi said.
As of last June, about 1.2 million foreigners were living in Korea. Nearly 15 percent of them or 174,049 were without state approval, according to the Ministry of Justice.
By nationality, nearly half of the illegal migrants or 80,474 were Chinese, followed by 14,656 Vietnamese, 12,263 Thais, 11,705 Mongolians and 11,410 Filipinos.