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Subject  What to be done about illegal immigrants
Name  HiKorea
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What to be done about illegal immigrants

[Kyounggi daily – Jan. 9th, 2008]

On January 3rd, I read an article on the Kyounggi Daily’s “Opinion” section (Page 23) by Hae-sung Kim, who is the head representative of the “Migrant Workers’ House”. As a civil servant currently working in immigrations department, I would like to say the following to help the readers understand the situation better.

First of all, I would like to point out that the article is almost entirely borrowed from what was posted nearly 4 years ago (November, 2003) on “Migrant Workers’ House”, website. As such, it should be noted that the events which the author cites are also quite dated, and hold little significance today.

For instance, the beating of Koreans in Philippines, according to information found on the internet, happened nearly 17 years ago, on October of 1991. Another cited event – that of a Korean-Chinese burning himself to death – was from March of 1998.

Since last March, the government have introduced a Working Visit policy, which opened up new entry options and vastly expanded employment opportunities for Koreans with Chinese nationality or nationality of a former members of the Soviet Union. As a result, Korean descendants that wish to legally enter Korea no longer need to pay five to ten million KRW to brokers. In addition, public mentality towards foreigners have matured significantly over the past decade, making many of the human rights infringements a thing of the past.

There are over 1 million foreign workers residing in Korea. Of those, about 22 thousand are illegal residents. They are effectively destabilizing the local labor markets and threatening local workers’ jobs. Not only that, due to their nature, they are highly susceptible to human rights violations. Furthermore, foreigners’ criminal activities are getting more and more dangerous, conning, and organized, which is becoming one of the biggest threats to our society.

One thing is certain: the fact that these illegal residents have violated the current law. Therefore, any tolerance or generosity towards them cannot be rationalized on an emotional level, and must lie strictly within the boundaries of the law. Once we start compromising law, we jeopardize the very foundation of our country. I cannot help but to be outraged by the sight of illegal residents, who are outlaws in every sense of the word, holding a demonstration outside the immigration office; with some of the more irresponsible social organizations actually harboring and supporting them.

This isn’t to say that they don’t have any rights in Korea. Even through they are outlaws, as human beings, they deserve to be guaranteed basic human rights, which no one has the rights to infringe upon. I wholeheartedly hold that current laws or regulations that discriminate them or otherwise compromise their basic rights need to be corrected.

What I cannot tolerate is these these illegal residents getting in the way of proper law enforcement, and sometimes going to the lengths to harm public servants that come to regulate illegal residents. Those that break the law gets punished – this is the very foundation of a constitutional nation. If we were to compromise this, then social order will start to decline, and everyone will end up suffering in the end.

As the number of illegal residents are growing, we can no longer solve this problem by fragmented policies or emotional approaches. Doing so will only bring about more illegal residents in the future. There needs to be a firm, socially agreeable policy that can get to the bottom of whole illegal recruitment issue altogether.

More important is the fact that there are over 800 thousand legal foreign residents, who are perfectly law-abiding and adding significantly to the economy. These are the people that truly needs to be helped. In this multi-cultural, multi-ethnic age, it is imperative that we work out a way to utilize this valuable human resource. I hope this new year will see more policies that helps them.

We must quickly rid our society of irrational way of thought towards illegal foreign workers. Furthermore, the government, must be more level and firm when dealing with issues surrounding them. I don’t feel sorry for Korea, but I DO feel sorry for the twisted way of thought that still hopes to take the emotional approach to our foreign labor problems.

Reporter : Sang-soon Park, director of protection in Incheon immigration office


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