Cambodians who work in South Korea will no longer have access to an expedited procedure to go back to South Korea once their contracts expire and they have to return to Cambodia, according to an announcement from the Ministry of Labour on Saturday.
Human Resources Development Service of Korea (HRD-Korea) has temporarily suspended a special Korean language test for migrant workers from 15 countries to reduce the number of re-entries, the announcement said.
Before entering South Korea, workers have to take a language test. The special test for those with work experience in South Korea was held four times a year, whereas the general test is held only once a year, according to the test’s website. Now, rather than re-qualifying with the faster special test, applicants seeking to return to Korea must wait and retake the general test.
According to Ministry of Labour spokesman Heng Sour, South Korean law allows migrant workers to stay in the country for a maximum of four years and 10 months, after which they have to return to Cambodia and re-apply.
Sour said re-entering workers would still have priority. “Employers mostly select the experienced ones,” he said.
The general test is also more competitive, with 54,000 applicants last year for about 10,000 spots. Meanwhile, the pass rate for the special test was about twice as high, with a total of about 1,500 applicants passing out of a total of about 4,000 applicants, according to Sour and information on the website.
Kong Sary, a Cambodian worker whose contract is nearly up, said the new scheme would have other consequences.
For the general test, he said, HRD-Korea is responsible for sending names of applicants to potential employers, making it an almost random selection.
Workers who had passed the special test, on the other hand, could immediately re-start their employment with their previous employers if they had an agreement – an option that will no longer be available.
“At first, I almost couldn’t believe the news,” he said.
Neither the South Korean Embassy in Cambodia nor the Cambodian Embassy in South Korea could be reached yesterday.
In 2016, Cambodia sent some 9,400 workers to South Korea.
Additional reporting by Leonie Kijewski