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Firms Face Foreign Workforce Crisis

By Choi Won-seok (yuwhan29@chosun.com), Chosun Ilbo, 13 November 2002

With the deadline for departure in March nearing and illegal foreign workers are hiding in fear of a crackdown by the authorities, industries are facing a sudden shortage in their workforce.

The number of illegal foreign workers who reported themselves to the authorities this past spring, allowing them to stay in Korea until March of 2003, is thought to be around 256,000 people. Government and civic organizations say the number represents about 73 percent of the estimated 350,000 foreign workers staying in the country illegally.

If, as according to reports by the Ministry of Justice, some 10,000 workers leave Korea in January, 56,000 in February, and 175,000 in April, industries across the nation would be paralyzed, the Ministry of Labor said.

The situation is not likely to improve, with the number of foreign industrial trainees that the government is planning to accept remaining at only about 50,000.

Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade researcher Choi Young-seob said that as long as the undesirable jobs, including print and chemical molds, form the basis of the nation’s industries, the blow caused by the vacancy of foreign workers would impact the overall industry.