SEOUL: The 5,000 Malaysians working and staying illegally in South Korea may be grouped into six categories, based on the findings of the mStar Online team that visited South Korea and spoke to some of those affected.
• The lucky ones
These are the “successful” ones who entered the country on tourist visas, have the funds to return home or travel to other countries after these visas expire. They then return to South Korea on new tourist visas and take up jobs here again.
Those in this category are considered fortunate because they have responsible employers who pay them as promised. They have also managed to evade the authorities.
• Those who overstay
There are also Malaysians who took the risk of overstaying. They are either working or waiting for other job opportunities. They can get by as long as they are not caught or face workplace issues such as accidents or exploitation by their employers.
Generally, it can be said that those who belong to the first two groups managed to realise their dream, have a place to stay, and are living comfortably in a foreign land.
• The unemployed and homeless
On the other hand, there are those who have been made homeless and forced to sleep in mosques or rely on the kindness of friends.
Their situation is caused by several factors: they may have been cheated by recruitment agents, had their salaries withheld, or had their contracts terminated, leaving them with nowhere to live and no funds to return to Malaysia.
• Waiting for spring
Job opportunities drop considerably during winter. Those without work are forced to endure the cold and wait for spring, which brings more job openings with it.
Those who have the money would not find the winter months a problem, but the unemployed have to depend on others for food and shelter.
• Accident victims
There are also those who overstay because of workplace accidents. They have to remain behind while waiting for their cases to be heard at the Labour Office so that they can claim compensation from their employers.
• Those on medical visas
Some of those hurt in workplace accidents are fortunate enough to be granted medical visas by the authorities, enabling them to stay in South Korea until their treatment is completed.
The specific reasons for not returning home vary from one individual to the next. Some may be victims of circumstance, while others are just determined to achieve their goals and earn as much as they can before coming back.
And with each new job opportunity that comes along, a new set of risks and hazards arises.