Illegal labour brokers in the crosshairs

Illegal labour brokers in the crosshairs

The Tourism Department and the Thai Travel Agents Association were urged by the Labour Ministry to regulate tour agencies that might be involved with illegal labour brokers as the number of Thais working illegally in South Korea is estimated at more than 100,000.

Labour Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said the problem of illegal workers has led to some Thai tourists being blocked at immigration checkpoints because of strict screening measures.

Despite having a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on labour between Thailand and South Korea, he said most illegal workers prefer to take shortcuts to skip learning the language, as required by the MoU.

According to the ministry, Thailand has signed six MoUs with South Korea since 2004, with a seventh edition being drafted.

Workers under this version will hold an E-9 visa allowing them to work for three years, which can be extended for one year and 10 months if employers request the extension, said Mr Phiphat.

After the maximum period of four years and 10 months, employees must return to Thailand for at least 30 days before returning to South Korea, with another four years and 10 months of employment allowed.

The quota of Thai workers this year is 4,800, with re-entrants tallying 1,202, he said.

However, Mr Phiphat said the total number of Thai workers residing in South Korea, including illegal labour, might exceed 100,000.

He said the ministry set up a monitoring team to counter online ads on Facebook and Line that brokers use to lure Thais to work illegally.

The ministry will also assign a special unit at the Suvarnabhumi Labour Checkpoint and Don Mueang Labour Checkpoint to block workers from travelling to South Korea, submitting information on those workers back to their provinces, said Mr Phiphat.

He said the Employment Department plans to coordinate with the Korea Immigration Service, exchange useful information to monitor illegal workers.

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