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Foreign residents eligible for debt relief program

Foreigners and multicultural families residing in South Korea are likely to become eligible to receive the same benefits as South Korean citizens under the government’s new debt restructuring program, an official at the nation’s financial regulator said Tuesday.

“The National Happiness Fund wouldn’t reject applicants based on nationality,” said an official at the Financial Services Commission, adding that, “our program will not discriminate against foreign debtors simply because of their country of origin.”

The National Happiness Fund is one of the key policy pledges made by President Park Geun-hye during her presidential campaign.

The 1.5 trillion won ($1.35 billion) budget launched last month is aimed at helping delinquent borrowers restructure or repay their loans.

Although exact details have not yet been finalized, officials say foreign residents may be able to receive the same priority treatment as South Korean citizens. Migrant workers registered at the Korea Federation of Small and Medium Business as well as non-citizens with a foreign spouse visa may also be eligible for the program.

All applicants for the fund are required to have overdue debts worth less than 100 million won ($90,000) and be at least six months behind their principal repayment, the FSC said.

Currently, there are 1.34 million long-term delinquents, according to the FSC. Though the exact figure for foreign delinquents is unknown, the commission expects it to be relatively minuscule.

Foreign residents interested in applying should register between April 22-30 with the Korea Asset Management Corporation. (Yonhap News)