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Subject  [KOREA HERALD NEWS] Seoul set to crack down on illegal immigration
Name  HiKorea
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Seoul set to crack down on illegal immigration


The government will escalate its crackdown on illegal foreigners, with the goal of cutting their numbers in half by 2012, officials said yesterday.

It will also overhaul the guest-worker program to better meet the need of local companies, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises.

The labor and justice ministries reported to a presidential committee an array of measures to strengthen law enforcement and enhance public order.

President Lee Myung-bak called for measures to stop the inflow of illegal migrants and to better supply much-needed foreign labor to local industries.

"The massive presence of illegal non-professional foreign workers is posing serious social problems," Lee told the panel which is dedicated to formulating polices to upgrade the national competitiveness.

"Illegal foreigners now number 230,000 and SMEs are still badly in need of foreign labor. The nation seems to lack an effective and fair system to deal with these problems," he said.

Undocumented migrants account for 19.3 percent of the non-Korean population.
The Justice Ministry said it will reduce that number to less than 10 percent by 2012. By the end of this year, the number will be reduced to 200,000, it said.

Law enforcement agencies will be more scrupulous, and visa regulations and immigration screening will be more strict, the ministry said.

The Labor Ministry said it will overhaul the Work Permit System under which it brings in foreign manual laborers based on a number which is set according to contracts with various governments, mostly in Asia.

Those workers are supplied for low-paying manufacturing, construction and service jobs which are shunned by Koreans.

The ministry said it will change the method of setting the annual number of workers permitted so as to better reflect the needs of local employers.

The government will also provide financial support to enterprises which hire foreign workers, in order to help reduce their costs.

It will subsidize the SMEs' food and lodging expenses for foreign workers.

The ministry will seek to extend the period for below-minimum-wage salaries. Companies are currently allowed to pay 90 percent of the minimum wage for up to three months to migrant employees who lack basic Korean language and work skills.

Concrete measures will be prepared by the end of the year in coordination with the wage-setting committee, the ministry said.

It will also raise the qualifications pertaining to workers' Korean language proficiency, job skills and experience, the ministry reported.

Policymakers and independent experts agree that more effective immigration policies are needed to raise the nation's industrial competitiveness, which has been increasingly undermined by shifting demographics such as the aging population and low birth rate, Cheong Wa Dae said.

During the meeting, the Justice Ministry also unveiled plans to bolster law and order in every sector of society.

It plans to launch a special investigative team to fight corruption among high-level officials.

Government agencies will work together more closely to fend off internet-based slander, malicious rumor-mongering and other crimes.

New legal measures will be in place to better protect socially and economically weak people from fraud and discrimination.

The ministry will also devise tougher measures to eliminate illegal protests and labor activities. It noted that 736 outdoor rallies per 1 million people took place in Seoul in 2007, compared to 207 in Washington, 186 in Paris and 59 in Tokyo.

Lee emphasized that law and order is key to a stable and sound influx of foreign investment, which the nation needs to boost the economy.

"Foreign investments in Korea are now centered on stocks, bonds and other short-term commodities, rather than on sustainable business projects. We have to create a social and legal atmosphere in which foreign enterprises actively make investments in long-term projects," Lee said.

By Hwang Jang-jin(jjhwang@heraldm.com)


2008-09-26

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