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Over half of foreign seasonal workers left workplace in violation of contract: report

Rural fields in Dongnae-myeon, Chuncheon, Gangwon Province (Yonhap)
Rural fields in Dongnae-myeon, Chuncheon, Gangwon Province (Yonhap)


More than half of foreigners who came to Korea last year as seasonal farm workers had left their workplaces in violation of contracts, according to a media report Tuesday.

Of 559 people who entered the country as seasonal workers last year, 56 percent, or 316, have disappeared without any notice, a KBS report said.

The public broadcaster said that nearly 100 of the foreign workers who arrived here in the first six months of this year to work in rural villages in Gangwon Province had disappeared.

The seasonal worker program is a scheme in which local governments invite temporary workers from overseas to legally work in farming and fishing villages for 90 days or up to 5 months.

Despite the aim of filling chronic labor shortages during the busy farming season, the program has faced doubts that it is being abused by foreigners seeking illegal employment.

Seasonal workers are required to stay with their contracted employees. To change their registered workplace, they must go through a process to gain a permit from related authorities.

Local governments are bringing in increasing numbers of foreign seasonal workers now to help short-handed agricultural and fisheries. On Tuesday alone, 16 from Vietnam and 70 from the Philippines arrived in Korea to work at farms in Hongseong, South Chungcheong Province and in Bongwha, North Gyeongsang Province.

The total number of seasonal workers who came to Korea in the first half of the year reached 5,311, the Ministry of Justice said on June 30. They were assigned to short-handed 75 local governments.

Provincial governments are responsible for securing the overseas workforce, handling visa-related issues and follow-up management of foreigners after entering the country.

According to an official at the Gangwon Provincial office, some foreign workers appear to have left assigned farms in pursuit of higher wages.

The Justice Ministry plans to allocate an additional 7,388 foreign seasonal workers in the second half of this year. The amount of seasonal workers who can apply for fishery positions is to be expanded, as requested by the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries.

By Park Han-na (hnpark@heraldcorp.com)
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