The Seoul Metropolitan Government announced Wednesday it will provide medical aid to undocumented foreign workers in the capital, who are not entitled to social security and health care insurance.
The city government plans to cover surgery costs and hospital charges up to 5 million won ($4,400) and provide interpretation and nursing services for up to a month depending on patients’ conditions, officials said.
“We are focusing on uninsured foreign workers. We are going to visit districts such as Guro, Geumcheon and Gwanak with large migrant workers population and contact them so that they can receive health benefits from the city,” said Kim Chang-bo, director-general of the city’s health policy bureau.
Officials said the humanitarian medical support is to provide proper medical care to the workers who entered legally, but overstayed their visas.
“They have made a contribution to the country’s economy, but are excluded from health benefits because of their illegal status,” they said.
Under the support, undocumented migrant workers, unemployed foreign spouses, their children and refugees become qualified to receive health benefits.
Surgery and hospital charges under 5 million won will be fully covered. If the amount exceeds the 5 million-won limit, the rest of it can be covered up to 80 percent.
The period of nursing services in foreign languages, including Chinese, Mongolian and Thai, is expected to vary depending on patients’ condition and could last from two days to a month during daytime hours.
Such benefits are available at eight designated hospitals in the capital including Seoul Medical Center in Jungnang, Seoul Red Cross Hospital in Jongno, George E. Doty Memorial Hospital and Seobuk Hospital in Euenpyeong, Boramae Medical Center in Dongjak, Dongbu Hospital in Dongdaemun, National Medical Center in Jungu and Foreign Migrant Workers’ Clinic in Guro.
“We will make sure the workers will not get deported to their country after receiving the help. Regarding this, we have made special arrangements with the Health Ministry and Justice Ministry,” said Yoon Jae-sam, deputy director of health policy division.
Most undocumented workers have refused to report unfair treatment at work to the government and receive help from them out of fear of deportation.
“There is always the danger of deportation,” said Choi Byoung-gyu, director of Korea Support Center for Foreign Workers, affiliated with the Labor Ministry.
“Officials have the obligation to report illegal workers under the immigration law. But as to medical support, they tend to keep quiet on this issue in a humanitarian viewpoint,” Choi added.
While there isn’t an official figure for undocumented workers in the capital, it is suspected there are 279,220, who account for 2.65 percent of the total population, according to the city.
According to the immigration office, 167,780, or 12 percent, of migrant workers across the country were undocumented as of Dec. 31.
By Lee Woo-young (firstname.lastname@example.org