South Korean immigration authorities have denied entry to Jeju island for 112 Thais on suspicion that they are trying to work illegally in the country, a Thai Foreign Ministry official said on Friday.
The Thai embassy in Seoul had contacted the immigration office in Jeju province after reports of Thais being barred, said Natapanu Nopakun, deputy spokesman for the ministry.
South Korean authorities told embassy officials that they were convinced the visitors were intending to illegally seek jobs if they were allowed to enter the country, he said.
A total of 184 Thais travelled to the resort island on Jeju Air flight 7C2244 on Tuesday and 110 of them were denied entry at the airport. They were flown back with two other Thais who had been waiting to be sent back.
Thai tourists are allowed to enter South Korea without a visa for no more than 90 days. All foreign visitors have to register online in advance for the Korea Electronic Travel Authorization (K-ETA) for permission.
Visitors to Jeju can choose to obtain or not obtain a K-ETA but those without the document will not be allowed to travel from the island to the mainland.
Thai workers — known in South Korea as “little ghosts” because they toil almost unseen — are expected to travel in droves to the country, which is now welcoming back foreign workers without quarantine requirements.
The Ministry of Labour has been negotiating for new openings in the labour market in Korea but is urging those interested in jobs in the industrial sector to sharpen their skills and prepare for tests.