Thai workers learn Korean to migrate
Many Thai workers have applied to take a standardised Korean language test so they can legally work and live in South Korea.
The language proficiency test is done through South Korea's Employment Permit System (EPS) for foreign workers. The system was adopted by the country's Department of Employment to accommodate Thai workers wishing to work in South Korea.
Scores of Thai workers recently passed the test, and their names will be listed in a database for potential South Korean employers to access when hiring foreign workers.
Aside from learning the language, Thais wishing to earn a living in South Korea must also be physically fit.
Chen Hak Ki, a representative of the Human Resources Development Service of Korea (HRD Korea), said 11,112 Thais workers had applied to take the test. This year, the quota for potential workers in South Korea's agricultural and livestock sectors was set at 710 -- 355 males and 355 females -- while the quota for construction workers is 1,981 males.
The HRD Korea representative said the minimum wage in South Korea in 2021 will be 8,720 won per hour, or about 273 baht, totalling about 50,000 baht per month when working full time.
Workers under the EPS are also entitled to the same employment opportunities and welfare programmes provided to South Koreans under the country's labour law.
Mr Chen added that apart from an attractive salary, those who legally work in South Korea will receive welfare benefits from employers upon returning home or when their contract is terminated.
A man who called himself Khan, a native of Si Sa Ket, said he aims to work as a construction worker in South Korea because the average pay is higher than in the agriculture sector. His current daily wage in Thailand is 370 baht.
Wages have not increased much here in the recent years, he said, adding a job in South Korea would pay more.
He could net as much as 80,000 baht per month in South Korea, Mr Khan said, adding he would use the money to help pay off his mother's debts of 200,000 baht.
He said he applied to take the EPS test in Bangkok and believed the test standard is higher when compared with similar tests arranged in the provinces.
Weerayut, a man from Surin province planning to take the test, said he took a test a couple of years ago but failed the physical fitness portion.
After that, he said he ran a small business, but it did not do well, especially when Covid-19 hit.
"I read Korean textbooks, listened to Korean clips and exercised more to be physically strong so this time I will not fail that part of the test," Mr Weerayut said.
Kib, 25, and her boyfriend, who work in the Rama III area, also applied to take the test in Bangkok. Ms Kib said they plan to be together in South Korea. She said should one of them be hired, he or she would urge their employer to hire the other.
She said she was learning Korean online for up to four hours a day with the hope of landing a job there due to the much higher salary.
Arun, 35, said preparing for the test could have cost up to 40,000 baht. And even though it's an investment, he said he studied on his own to save money.
However, many people who passed the test and signed employment contracts are still waiting to travel to South Korea, he said.