The Korea Herald

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Government removes 11,000 undocumented immigrants in June, July

By Moon Ki Hoon

Published : Aug. 23, 2023 - 17:45

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South Korean Ministry of Justice logo (Ministry of Justice) South Korean Ministry of Justice logo (Ministry of Justice)

On Wednesday, South Korea's Justice Ministry reported that nearly 11,000 undocumented immigrants were removed from the country through either deportation or voluntary departure between June 12 and July 31, a move that highlights the Yoon Suk Yeol government's focus on stricter immigration enforcement.

The 50-day crackdown was conducted jointly by five central government agencies, including the Ministry of Justice, the National Police Agency, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, the Ministry of Employment and Labor and the Korea Coast Guard.

While there were nearly 11,000 individuals of foreign nationality removed, a comparatively small number of 1,290 local employers were fined and 20 brokers were caught for illegal employment practices -- with only 5 of the latter arrested -- according to authorities.

Of the total number of foreign nationals removed, 5,282 were deported, while 5,476 opted for voluntary departure to bypass a future entry ban. Those subjected to forced deportation may face both fines and entry bans under immigration laws, contingent on the duration of their illegal stay.

“Moving forward as well, we will strive to create a safe society by taking strict measures not only against foreigners who stay here illegally, but also foreigners who threaten Korean citizens' safety, such as with drugs, or who promote residing here illegally, by helping others find illegal employment,” Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon said in a statement.

This immigration crackdown marks the second of its kind this year, with the previous crackdown between March and April leading to the removal of 13,000 individuals illegally residing in the country. In January, Justice Minister Han announced a five-year strategy to cut South Korea's unauthorized immigrant population from an estimated 410,000 to around 200,000, marking the administration's turn to a stricter immigration policy.

In the first half of 2023 alone, these regular crackdowns and enhanced surveillance have led to the deportation of a total of 37,000 foreign nationals – more than triple the number from the same period last year.

South Korea has seen the number of undocumented immigrants rise steeply, with a nearly twofold increase between 2016 (209,000) to 2022 (411,000), according to monthly data from the Justice Ministry.