Korea to open more immigration offices


The Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) and the Ministry of Justice signed an agreement Monday to better cater for the increasing number of foreign residents in Seoul by strengthening bilateral networks and expanding foreigner-friendly measures. Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon and Justice Minister Park Sang-ki signed a memorandum of understanding at Seoul City Hall, Monday. The signing ceremony was participated in by four officials from the city government and three from the ministry. Four representatives of the Seoul City Foreign Residents Council ― from China, Japan, Myanmar and Kyrgyzstan ― and the U.K.-born head of Seoul Global Center, another SMG arm geared to supporting the city’s foreign residents, also attended. The MOU is intended to introduce refreshed policies in six major sectors: discovering foreign talent; providing consultation and education; improving delivery of administrative services; expanding the foreign population census and analysis; improving the living environment; and establishing “bottom-up” policies. The MOU comes amid an ever-increasing number of foreign residents in the city. The figure has jumped nearly 50 percent from a decade ago, up from 286,000 in October 2009 to 427,000 in October 2018. The increase rate is even steeper nationwide, from 920,000 to 1.67 million during the same period ― an 82 percent increase.


Despite the demographic shift across the country, the need for more immigration offices and more counseling and education facilities for foreigners has remained unresolved. Facing the stagnant quality of foreigner-friendly infrastructure, both parties agreed to introduce more immigration offices, share information to introduce more foreigner-friendly policies, and build a co-operative system to support counseling and education services. Justice Minister Park said the MOU would be “the starting point of preparing this set of foreigner-friendly policies.” He said he hoped Monday’s signing would “launch a new foundation where foreign residents in Seoul can thrive in being members of local communities and make contributions to where they live.” With the MOU, the country looks forward to inviting foreign talent to the city. Part of the agreed terms state that visas will be issued more promptly, especially to foreigners at 20 or more start-ups that the SMG will support through the “Seoul Global Challenge.”


The new mandate also designates the Seoul Business Agency, an SMG arm supporting small- and medium-size businesses, as the Global Start-up Immigration Center, a government agency operating the foreigner start-up aid program, Overall Assistance for Startup Immigration System (OASIS). “There were hundreds of different nationalities in Silicon Valley in the U.S. who made the tech valley what it became,” said Mayor Park, while referring to Minister Park as “the only justice minister who has ever visited City Hall.” He said Berlin was now emerging as a hub of start-ups in Europe.”There is no reason Seoul cannot follow such a track,” he said. “For young, talented entrepreneurs to come to Korea, we need to resolve various visa problems. By doing so, it will make Korea a better international destination not only for start-ups but tourists and the MICE industry.” MICE refers to meetings, incentives, conventions and events and exhibitions. Under the MOU, there will be twice-yearly discussions by a new foreigner policy committee comprised of senior officials from both authorities. The committee will function as a “joint control tower” in scrutinizing ideas and plans for the six major sectors.

By Ko Dong-hwan

(Korea Times)


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