Coronavirus pandemic

Over 396k foreigners staying illegally in S. Korea

The number of foreigners who were illegally staying in South Korea hit an all-time high of 396,654 in May.
The number of foreigners who were illegally staying in South Korea hit an all-time high of 396,654 in May.PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL • South Korea saw a 10 per cent year-on-year jump in the number of foreigners staying in the country in May, with travellers and migrants stranded by the strict border control measures that have been put in place globally to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, according to data released yesterday.

The Korea Immigration Service said the number of foreigners who were illegally staying in the country hit an all-time high of 396,654 in May, reported Yonhap news agency.

Of this number, about 75 per cent, or 296,000, were visitors who had entered the country without a visa for a 90-day stay,

This translated into an 11 per cent increase in the number of short-term visitors staying illegally in the country, compared with the same month last year.

"As international travel was blocked due to Covid-19, short-term residents could not leave the country after their visa-free stay period expired," an official from the Immigration Service said.

There was also a 7.4 per cent increase in the number of long-term immigrants overstaying their visas - at about 100,000.

"Foreigners who entered the country with a long-term visa have to leave the country after three years of employment to extend their visa. But they have also become illegal residents due to coronavirus travel restrictions," said the official.

The proportion of illegal foreigners in the country also hit a record high of 18.5 per cent. This was up from 15.5 per cent in December last year, the agency said.

  • 10%

  • Year-on-year rise in number of foreigners staying in South Korea in May, due to border control measures that have left foreigners stuck in the country.

The Immigration Service said the government was making efforts to repatriate illegal immigrants to their home countries, but an increasing number of nations were unwilling to accept even their own citizens, Yonhap reported.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 27, 2020, with the headline 'Over 396k foreigners staying illegally in S. Korea'. Print Edition | Subscribe