Seoul expands counseling for foreigners
By Kim Rahn
Bayara, a Mongolian worker in Korea, and seven other Mongolian employees had to change their workplace as their employer habitually delayed paying wages.
But they were at a loss about how to get the overdue money they were unable to visit labor authorities to file complaints on weekdays as they had to work.
When he visited Mongolia Town in Gwanghui-dong, Seoul, on April 4 last year, Bayara stumbled on a counseling service offered by the Seoul Global Center.
He asked for help from a counselor, who told Bayara to bring the necessary documents the next Sunday together with his former colleagues.
The eight workers brought the documents and the counselor filled out a petition for overdue wages under Bayara’s name and submitted it to a local labor center the following day.
The center then asked Bayara to present himself for questioning, and the counselor asked Bayara’s boss to give him a dayoff for the process. Days later, the eight workers received all their overdue wages.
“Like Bayara, it is difficult for a migrant worker to submit a petition for a delay in wage payment as they have to work on weekdays, have communication difficulties, and don’t know about the procedures,” said Park Yong-jin, a Seoul City official.
To help such people unable to seek counseling on weekdays, the Seoul Global Center has offered consultation programs on Sundays, and will expand the service this year.
The service, introduced in 2009, was not available in winter due to the cold, but will now be accessible at community centers in regions with dense foreign populations. From this upcoming Sunday, counseling will be offered at Gwanghui-dong Community Center, Seongdong Migrant Workers’ Center, Yurak Welfare Center and the Catholic Youth Center in Hyehwa-dong.
From April when outdoor consultation is available, the counselors will visit regions including Yeonnam-dong, Daerim-dong, Mongolian Town, Russian Town, Islam Street, and the Philippine Market.
“Starting March, we’ll also provide on-site counseling at the request of foreign communities or related organizations when national festivals or events are held, such as the Mongolian Naadam Festival and Philippine Independence Day,” Park said.
The counseling will range on issues from industrial accidents, insurance, and labor laws to national pension and getting a cell phone.
“We have lawyers, labor attorneys, immigration officials and insurance company workers who provide pro bono services,” Park said.
The global center will set the counseling schedule according to each region’s demand and inform foreigners of the schedule through foreign communities in advance, he said.
Starting in the new semester, the on-site counseling team will visit campuses on a special bus remodeled for consultation.
The counseling at 15 universities will meet the needs of foreign students, such as immigration, house leases, job hunting, tourism and shopping.
For more information about the service, call the Seoul Global Center at 1688-0120 or the city’s Economic Promotion Headquarters at 02-2075-4142, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.