S Korea gets tough on visa violations
Almost 400 Thai travellers have been denied entry into South Korea since Friday, as Seoul steps up its crackdown on illegal migrant workers.
The deputy chief of the Labour Ministry's Department of Employment, Thienrat Nawamawat, on Monday confirmed the figures that first appeared online on Sunday.
Several popular Facebook pages claimed that almost 400 Thai citizens who travelled to South Korea between April 19-21 have been denied entry.
The pages also said that those turned away by South Korean immigration authorities are currently waiting to be deported, before adding that many were held in confined spaces with limited access to food and water.
Some of the pages also warned Thais not to travel to South Korea at this time, as it is the low season for tourists and South Korean immigration officials are likely to turn them away as a part of its crackdown on foreigners who exploit its visa policies to illegally stay and/or work in the country.
Ms Thienrat said Thais need to be aware that South Korea is cracking down on phi noi, or little ghosts -- Thai citizens who went to South Korea as tourists under the existing visa-waiver agreement, but opted to stay and work illegally.
She said the Labour Ministry has issued warnings to Thais who wish to work illegally in South Korea not to try and do so, as they will be denied entry and sent back to Thailand.
Meanwhile, the acting chief of the Immigration Bureau, Pol Lt Gen Sompong Chingduang, said on Monday that he was aware of the reports.
Pol Lt Gen Sompong also pledged to take legal action against job placement firms which violated the visa-waiver agreement by sending illegal migrant workers to South Korea.
According to the Labour Ministry, 2,503 out of 3,408 Thai nationals who applied to work through job placement firms between Sept 11, 2018 and April 1, 2019 failed the ministry's certification process -- which indicates that many applicants had intended to work and stay in South Korea without the required papers.