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[Newsmaker] Seoul to extend visas for foreign workers to address rural labor shortage

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun speaks at the disaster response meeting on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun speaks at the disaster response meeting on Wednesday. (Yonhap)

The South Korean government will take steps to extend visas for foreign laborers as part of measures to address issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said Wednesday.

Speaking at a disaster management meeting, Chung said that such measures will be introduced to alleviate labor shortages in rural areas.

“Measures to extend the duration of stay for foreign laborers, and temporarily providing opportunities to work in areas such as agricultural communities will be rolled out,” Chung said.

According to Chung, rural areas are experiencing severe labor shortages ahead of the harvest season, while many foreign laborers with expired visas are unable to return home due to lack of flights, or entry bans imposed by their home countries.

“Foreign workers whose duration of stay is extended, taking on seasonal jobs will be of some help in resolving the labor shortage in agricultural areas.”

The prime minister also revealed plans to strengthen quarantine measures at seaports, following the recent series of COVID-19 cases among sailors entering the country.

Chung said that sailors from Russia and other countries with high COVID-19 cases will be required to produce PCR results clearing them of COVID-19 to enter the country, and that the list of high-risk countries will be updated on regular basis.

On the matter of foreign students expected to enter the country ahead of the second semester, Chung said that flights and visa issuances will be regulated to ensure that their entry into Korea is spread out.

By Choi He-suk (