Detained Korean students in Philippines to return home
By Han Sang-hee
The 110 Korean students who have been detained for about a week in the Philippines for studying English at a language school without the necessary visa permits will return to Korea by the end of January, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said Friday.
Officials from the Philippines’ Bureau of Immigration (BI) seized the passports of the Korean students and detained them in an English institute in Batangas since Jan. 7 as they were there studying English without the Special Study Permit (SSP) from the local government.
A Korean ministry official said that the Filipino immigration officials acted upon a complaint from a Filipina who worked with the Koreans in the past.
“The Philippines government told us that it will return the passports to the children and send them back to Korea by the end of the month at the latest,” the ministry official said.
However, the official said the government will investigate 14 Koreans, including the institute head, for organizing language courses without acquiring the authorized permits for the enrolled students.
The students, mostly of elementary school age and a handful from middle school, had paid 2 million won to 3 million won individually to a Philippine institute that was in charge of the English learning program, and started classes early this month.
However, they were reported to have violated the law when the BI discovered that the institute did not pay the 150,000 won for each student’ SSP to the local government.
This is in fact not the first time students or Koreans have been detained in the Philippines for not having the proper documents they needed to stay and study.
Despite warnings against such incidents, many parents and Korean institutes that arrange the language courses just proceed with the cheap and quick language courses.
``Even when they realize that the program is not that good and the students have to study with a bunch of other Korean students, they just turn a blind eye,’’ said a clerk from a language institute, declining to be named.
According to immigration law in the Philippines, foreigners cannot come and study without a student visa or an SSP.
The SSP is only given to those who are studying at a certified institute by the immigration office, and experts warn parents to confirm this requirement before signing up for a language program in the Philippines.
Industry insiders said the biggest problem is that no Korean government office is regulating the mushrooming of private institutes that provide such inexpensive but risky language programs.
``There are many cheap but uncertified places that lure Korean students to the Philippines and also Korean companies that work with them, so parents have to make sure the procedure is all legal and certified,’’ the clerk added.
억류된 한국 학생들, 곧 귀국
허가 받지 않은 필리핀 영어 학원에서 어학연수를 해 1주일 간 억류된 110명의 한국 학생들이 1월 말 귀국 할 것 이라고 외교 통상부가 전했다.
필리핀 이민국 관계자는 단속 당시 한국 학생들은 허가 받지 않은 영어 학원에서 공부했기에 필리핀 정부에서 발행하는 입학 허가증을 갖고 있지 않았다고 말했다.
외교부 관계자는 과거 한국인 과 동업한 필리핀 동업자가 이민국에 제보한 것이라고 밝혔다.
대부분 초등학생과 일부의 중학생들은 1인당 200만원~ 300만원을 들여 이달 초 영어 연수를 시작 했다.
그러나 학원측은 영어 연수생들이 꼭 받아야 하는 SSP수수료 15만원 정도를 필리핀 당국에 지급하지 않아 적법절차를 어긴 것으로 알려졌다.
값싼 영어 연수 프로그램 필리핀에서 공부하고 지내기 위한 합법적 절차를 거치지 않아 억류된 한국인들은 이번이 처음이 아니다.
이런 일을 경고 함에도 불구하고, 많은 부모와 학원들은 단지 값싸고 빠른 연수 기간 때문에 이를 택한다.
전문가들은 한국 정부가 이런 싼 가격 이지만 위험한 연수 프로그램을 운영하는 사교육 기관을 규제하지 않다는 것이 가장 큰 문제라고 지적했다.