South Korea plans to partly lift restrictions on arrivals of migrant workers prompted by the pandemic later this month, as the country has begun to take steps to return to normalcy, the labor ministry said Friday.
The government will allow all entry of foreign workers from 16 countries that send labor force to the country under the Employment Permit System, including Mongolia, Vietnam, Thailand and China, the ministry said during a regular COVID-19 response meeting held at the government complex in Seoul.
However, workers from Myanmar, the Philippines, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, where the virus situation is bad, will be able to get visas only two weeks after getting vaccinated. They also have to have a negative result on the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test conducted at designated local hospitals within 72 hours before boarding a flight to South Korea.
Workers from the other 11 countries will be allowed into the country only if they submit a negative PCR test result, but they will be required to get COVID-19 vaccine jabs after arriving here.
All migrant workers, whether they are inoculated or not, must undergo 10 days of self-quarantine at state-operated facilities upon arriving in the country.
So far, South Korea has not issued visas to workers from Myanmar and the four countries struggling with COVID-19, and only allowed entry of a limited number of migrant workers from the other 11 countries amid the pandemic due to virus concerns.
Only those who tested negative on a PCR test have also been allowed here and have had to undergo a mandatory two-week self-quarantine.
These measures led to the number of migrant workers who entered South Korea plunging from an annual average of 50,000 before the pandemic to below 7,000 last year, according to the ministry.
Many small and medium-sized businesses here, as well as farms, have complained of manpower shortages due to the sharp drop in the number of migrant workers.
About 50,000 foreigners with work permits were waiting to enter the country as of last month due to the restrictions, according to the ministry. (Yonhap)