K-pop, K-culture
and Foreigners

Confessions of foreign entertainers working in Korea

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As of 2021, the number of foreigners
living in Korea posted

(Korea Immigration Statistics)

Among them,


foreigners are working
in the entertainment
industry under the E-6 visa.

The E-6 visa is broken into three sub-categories: the E-6-1 visa is for foreigners who plan to engage in profitable activities such as music, fine arts, and literature, or professional acting, or professional entertainment activities in accordance with the Public Performance Act.

This visa allows foreigners to appear on TV, act on Korean dramas or movies, do voice acting, shoot commercials and do modeling work.

Renee Simone, Actress/Model/Dancer, US Renee Simone, Actress/Model/Dancer, US
Kelly Frances, TV personality/Voice actor/Model, US Kelly Frances, TV personality/Voice actor/Model, US
Kenneth Fibbe, TV personality/Voice actor/Model, US Kenneth Fibbe, TV personality/Voice actor/Model, US
Garrison Michael Farquharson-Keener, Actor, UK Garrison Michael Farquharson-Keener, Actor, UK

The E-6-2 visa is for those who plans to engage in performance or entertainment activities at hotel business facilities and adult entertainment facilities in accordance with Tourism Promotion Acts.

Singers or artists who want to perform at hotels and entertainment establishments need this type of visa.

Andrey Ramanenka and Katsiaryna
                                                Balabolava, Circus performers,
                                                Belarus Andrey Ramanenka and Katsiaryna Balabolava, Circus performers, Belarus
Nica, Singer, Philippines Nica, Singer, Philippines

For these foreign entertainers who have been longing to work in the Korean entertainment industry, obtaining the E-6 visa was surely a dream-come-true moment. Until they had to experience for themselves that there is a very dark side to the industry.

According to a survey on 129 migrant artists by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea in 2014,

53.4% did not receive their wages on time

46% had their passports or alien registration cards
taken by their employers

53% experienced verbal abuse

46.4% experienced physical assault

55% experienced sexual harassment

Migrant artists in Korea have fallen victim to human rights violations for many years now.

Although Korea’s emergence as a soft power leader has attracted more migrant artists to the country than ever before, many E-6 visa holders – which include hard-working artists, athletes, and performers – are still being deprived of their basic rights and freedoms. This ranges from unpaid wages to human trafficking violations and sexual abuse, according to local civic groups.

Performance artists who hold E6-2 visas in particular are often being sent to work at seedy nightlife establishments where they are forced to serve drinks and even engage in prostitution.

Due to their legal status in the country, many of these migrant workers are powerless to resist and unable to speak out about these violations, some of which are serious enough to be described as a modern form of human trafficking.

We sat down with several migrant artists who are either currently working in Korea or had the experience of doing so in the past, for a raw and honest account of their experiences.