Seoul, the capital of South Korea. Photo: AFP/Maria Plotnikova/Sputnik
Upbeat trade data amid dire news suggests an economic spring may be coming to Seoul. Photo: AFP

Thai nationals working illegally in South Korea have been urged to take advantage of an amnesty offered by Seoul and take the opportunity to return home without facing any penalties.

On Monday, South Korea’s Ministry of Justice posted an info-graphic on Facebook in many languages, including Thai, informing all illegal migrant workers that they can leave voluntarily and return home and face no penalties. 

The voluntary departure period was from Oct, 1, 2018, to March 31, 2019. During this period, illegal migrant workers would not be reported to immigration officers and not be blacklisted in the system. However, if they try to leave after the voluntary departure period they will be blacklisted from South Korea for 10 years.

South Korean officials also announced that staring from Nov. 1, police would start arresting illegal workers. 

According to Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the number of illegal Thai workers in South Korea was about 100,000, including those who had overstayed their visas. However, the number recorded in the official Employment Permit System was 25,000. 

Thailand’s Ministry of Labor has been working with South Korean government officials, trying to extend the time period from nine years to 14 years and the age limit to more than 39 for Thai workers. They have also asked Korean officials to accept more Thai female laborers who have passed the TOPIK, or Test of Proficiency in Korean, to work in the country. 

Thais can earn a lot more working in South Korea than they can at home, but on the downside many have sought jobs there illegally. Most of the illegal Thai immigrants in South Korea work as farmers, in factories or as masseuses.

A Facebook page is planned to advertise jobs and salaries in South Korea for legal workers. For example, a Thai couple working in a pig farm would be paid 78,000 to 90,000 baht per month per couple, with accommodation and free food. Those doing massages would get 60,000 to 80,000 baht per month. The salaries for factory workers vary depending on their skills.

There are four ways to become a legal worker in South Korea. First, those seeking jobs must study the Korean language. Second, they must pass an exam in Korean. Third, they must wait for an employer to sign a contract with them, and last, they must wait for the government to send them to South Korea under the Employment Permit System. 

Life in Factory: