By Yi Whan-woo
The government will tighten entry rules for foreign workers as part of its efforts to keep out immigrants with criminal records or infectious diseases
The Korea Immigration Service (KIS) said Monday that it will require low-skilled foreign workers, sailors and short-term employees to submit criminal and health background checks from Aug 1.
The KIS currently asks for such records from native-English teachers applying for E-2 visas, and foreign spouses from countries that have a high record of international marriage fraud.
Visa seekers with histories of violent crimes, such as murder, robbery or rape will be denied entry, the KIS said.
The immigration service said it has decided to enforce the strengthened rules to address growing concerns about grave crimes by foreign residents, and the possible spread of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis (TB) by them.
The country was shocked by a horrendous crime committed by a Korean-Chinese migrant worker, Wu Yuanchun, 42, who murdered a woman in her 20s and dismembered her body in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, in April.
The number of TB patients rose to 39,557 last year, up 8.6 percent from 2010, according to a KIS official citing data from the Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The health official said that a number of patients are from countries that have sent laborers to Korea,” said Lee Gyu-hong, director of the visa and residence division of the KIS.
The new policy will require all 15 countries that signed an agreement with Korea to send unskilled workers here to submit their criminal records. The countries include China, Vietnam, Thailand, Mongolia, the Philippines, Cambodia and Uzbekistan.
Foreigners will be required to hand in health records that include documentation of drug addiction, and cases of mental disorders, TB, hepatitis and syphilis. They will also undergo an additional health checkup at the nearest KIS branch to their home or workplace in Korea.
“The additional health checkup is to double check and make sure that the workers are absolutely healthy enough to work in Korea,” said Lee. “We have found that those addicted to drugs tend to become violent and commit crimes.”
“Mental patients with criminal records also have a chance to commit crime. In terms of those with infectious diseases, we need to find them and quarantine them immediately,” he added.