Down And Out In Seoul

Somewhat overblown but still interesting article on foreigners now accounting for a small percentage of South Korea’s homeless population:

“The center said the nationalities of the homeless were varied and included people from the United States, Canada and Russia.

‘As of now, about 60 homeless people from various countries are staying at four temporary shelters around the city,’ said Yeo Jae-hun, head of the center. ‘I believe there are more on the streets of Seoul.’”

As globalization continues to penetrate into what was traditionally a very highly regimented and guarded Korean society, this seems inevitable.  The English teacher who gets fired but doesn’t have the money for a plane ticket home might just end up on the street.  (It’s no secret that many private English schools will can teachers prematurely to avoid paying for their return ticket home.)  The Afghanistan veteran who has undiagnosed P.T.S.D. might have a manic episode and wind up in a strange town with no identification.

But this part doesn’t make sense to me:

“The Justice Ministry admitted homeless foreigners are a technical headache.

‘When they are visitors with valid visas, we cannot send them back home because they didn’t violate the Immigration Control Act,’ said an official from the ministry.”

Unless you’re married to a Korean or go through the hoops of learning the language sufficiently enough to earn an “F” level visa, English teachers here are “E” levels.  E-2 typically, or E-1 (which I’m on) for a college position (which sounds nice and has a few benefits to an E-2, but not that many).

On an E visa your legal alien status is dependent on the good will of your sponsor, who is your boss.  The second they decide to fire you you are, effectively, an illegal alien.

So when I hear these stories my first thought is wow, fantastic, another opportunity for the South Korean media to blame all of the country’s problems on dirty foreigners.  But second, really Mr. Justice Ministry spokesperson?  By definition the E visa system is designed to automatically boot any foreigner from the country who is no longer gainfully employed.  They don’t even have a chance to find another job, even if there’s high demand.  (I’ve heard this is how Japan works but I’m not certain.)

The fear of unwashed homeless foreigner masses is par for the course for the South Korean media.  What I don’t get is the whinging of officials unless there is, for some strange reason, a group of foreigners coming here on tourist visas to be homeless.  As as bad as the States are in this regard, being a homeless foreigner in South Korea must be ten times worse.  Even then, you just wait 30-90 days to kick them out.

As for U.S. soldiers who somehow end up on the street, wouldn’t they be A.W.O.L.?  Just drive them to the nearest base.

This entry was posted in Korea, Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s