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Aging South Korea turns to immigration

Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon (left) briefs President Yoon Suk-yeol at his office in Yongsan, central Seoul, on Tuesday morning. (Yonhap)
Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon (left) briefs President Yoon Suk-yeol at his office in Yongsan, central Seoul, on Tuesday morning. (Yonhap)

The Ministry of Justice will open a bureau to facilitate immigration as South Korea struggles to cope with falling birth rates and an aging population.

After briefing President Yoon Suk-yeol on Tuesday morning, Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon told reporters that the plans for a central bureau overseeing policies relating to immigration will begin to take shape over the remaining year.

Since taking office in May, Han has said that during his term, he would make it his mission to institute an immigration-friendly system within the government. “Building forward-looking, effective immigration policies is critical for the country’s future,” he said.

The ministry is trying out new programs for attracting and retaining immigrants.

One of them is a “fast-track” path to citizenship and residence for highly-skilled applicants, set to open in October. Another is a “region-specific” visa to encourage foreigners to settle in regions with steeper population declines.

The ministry will also set out initiatives for removing barriers for children of immigrants in accessing education, health care and other social services.

In the same briefing, Han said the ministry plans to crack down on serious, widespread crimes in South Korea, as prosecutors are about to lose their powers to investigate and prosecute most crimes. Once the Democratic Party of Korea-backed laws come into effect in September, prosecutors can no longer be involved in the investigations of the crimes that they prosecute.

He said the ministry will zero in on crimes targeting vulnerable populations such as minors and women. Child maltreatment surveillance will be increased. Power-based sexual violence will be dealt heavier penalties. GPS tracking anklets will be used on those convicted of stalking.

More investigations will be encouraged against corporate and white-collar crimes such as tax evasion, as well as fraud rings perpetuating phishing and cryptocurrency scams, he added.

Han said key goals of the ministry under his leadership would be establishing a judicial system that is adaptive to future challenges; criminal justice collaboration with police and concerned ministries to reduce violence and corruption; and promotion of human rights and a victim-centered approach in the administration of justice. 

By Kim Arin (arin@heraldcorp.com)

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