Seven Koreans operating English training centers in the Philippines are likely to be deported for violating local immigration law, according to local media reports.
The Seoul government has requested Manila for a humanitarian approach to the case, but observers say the Filipino authorities will adopt strict measures against to set an example.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, a total of 113 Korean minors and 14 adults were investigated by the Filipino authorities earlier this week.
The students ― elementary and middle schoolers ― have had their passports confiscated and are staying under a guardian’s custody while the adults are being detained at a compound. The local government is reportedly considering deporting seven adults.
According to the local media outlet Inquirer.net the children were caught on Jan. 7 while studying at an English language training center at the Fantasy World resort grounds in Lemery, Batangas, operated by the Koreans.
They did not have the special study permits which foreign minors must secure from the Filipino Bureau of Immigration before enrolling in any local schools. They are also accused of not paying for a waiver from the bureau issued to foreign minors entering the country without their parents.
The operators identified as Kim Hye-young, Jeon Myeong-sun, Lee Ji-yeoun, Bac Chang-tin, Kim Gie-sou and Moon I-ho will be deported while Lee Wang-ye, alleged to have been the main culprit, will have his permanent residency cancelled as well as being deported, the report said.
The ministry has dispatched a consul team to the compound and spoken with the detainees.
It later said that the Filipino government has agreed to give the passports back to the children and send them no later than the end of this month. Still, the adults will be under thorough investigation.
Another local broadcaster, ABS-CBN, reported that 70 children will be blacklisted and deported, but the Korean authorities refused to confirm the report.
Industry insiders said such detentions are nothing new in the Philippines since many English language centers operated by Koreans violate local laws to save money.
“While the students pay around 2 million won to 3 million won ($1,800-2,600) per program, the issuance of relevant permits costs around 150,000 won. Many operators choose to evade it. When they’re caught, common measures taken are fines or deportation,” an insider was quoted as saying by a Korean language newspaper here.
Observers said the case may be alarming to many Koreans running English training facilities in the Philippines.
“Because the cost of living and educational programs is cheaper than that of the U.S., Australia and others, many fly over to the Philippines to learn English. However, slack management of the courses has become a huge problem.
“Local Koreans assume more than 20 facilitations of this kind operate in Manila,” a Korean living in the Philippines capital was quoted as saying. “It seems that the investigation result will influence other people who could be caught through crackdowns of this kind in the future,” he added.
Some observers have asked parents to pay extra attention when selecting the training schools.
“Parents should meet the program organizers and study before they make up their minds,” Kim Byeong-jin, spokesman for English training agency, Tournara, was quoted as saying.
By Bae Ji-sook (firstname.lastname@example.org