Tough South Korean immigration screening causes social media furore

national May 19, 2017 01:00

By THE NATION

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SOUTH KOREA has deported 20,000 Thai travellers each year, with people being denied entry due to the lack of required documents and the language barrier, according to Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Busadee Santipitaks. There were 57,490 Thais who had overstayed their visas in South Korea, she added.



Busadee said yesterday that the ministry had made an inquiry about a widely discussed case, in which a Thai Facebook user shared on Monday her recent experience of being denied entry to South Korea by immigration officials and sent back to Thailand.

Busadee said she had been told by the Thai Embassy in Seoul that the traveller in question had been deported due to insufficient documentation and language difficulties. 

The spokesperson said the South Korean government allowed Thai passport holders to enter the country visa-free for up to 90 days. However, Korean authorities deported about 20,000 Thai nationals each year due to travel violations such as overstay, illegal employment and illegal immigration, she said.

“Thai people wishing to visit South Korea must adhere to that country’s immigration law and carry sufficient documentation, which includes round-trip tickets with clear dates and financial documents.” 

Thais who want to work in South Korea must be employed through a legal recruitment agency or the Ministry of Labour’s employment scheme, she said. 

As of March, 101,000 Thai nationals resided in South Korea – 57,490 of whom had overstayed their visas, which was a high number, Busadee said. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will meet with the Ministry of Labour and the South Korean government to address the overstay issue and prevent other Thai visitors from being affected.

As South Korea is a popular vacation destination for Thai nationals, the Facebook user’s post, which also claimed that 100 to 300 people were denied entry each day, received 11,771 shares and 5,657 comments as of yesterday afternoon. 

While some Facebook users expressed sympathy with the woman’s ordeal and said they did not want to visit South Korea, others commented that many Thais overstayed their visas and worked there illegally, which explained the strict screening. 

Many also said that the traveller should have prepared more documents, had her friends present to support her story or learned more English to communicate better.

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