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Deaths raise safety concerns over working holidays in Australia

Deaths raise safety concerns over working holidays in Australia

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Published : 2013-12-20 20:32
Updated : 2013-12-20 20:32

The Foreign Ministry’s working holiday visa program is under fire after two South Koreans were apparently murdered within a one-month span in Australia.

Kim Min-tae, a 20-something student, was found dead on Thursday in the suburbs of Brisbane. He was last seen on Monday and reportedly on his way to exchange more than 10,000 Australian dollars ($8,869) into South Korean won while preparing to return home in a few weeks.

Seoul’s Foreign Ministry confirmed that Australian police officials were holding three Koreans suspected to have been involved in Kim’s death.

The incident follows the death of Ban Eun-ji, a female student in her early 20s. She had been found reportedly killed by severe blows to the head in a Brisbane park last month.

Both students were staying in Australia under the ministry’s working holiday visa program. The program authorizes students to stay in the host country for traveling, studying and working purposes, with some restrictions.

The special visa has been popular with job-seeking South Korean youths because it offered the prospect of working in a developed foreign country without having to go through a complicated visa application process.

Of 17 host countries, Australia has been the most popular because it does not have a quota on the number of South Koreans it receives through the program.

Over 30,000 Korean students under the working holiday visa have gone to the country since 2008, comprising more than 70 percent of South Korean nationals who are traveling abroad under the visa.

The recent incidents however highlighted fears that most Koreans going to Australia were bound to work in blue-collar jobs, leaving them vulnerable to fraud and violent crimes.

Seoul’s consulate in Sydney issued a statement expressing grief and sorrow.

But “because the incident occurred as Mr. Kim was preparing to return home, his death is not necessarily connected to the working holiday visa program,” said an official at the Foreign Ministry.

“Although we will continue efforts to ensure safety, we will for now do our utmost to ease the pain of Mr. Kim’s family and friends,” she added.

By Jeong Hunny (hj257@heraldcorp.com)

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