The move came as the ratio of illegal Vietnamese workers in the RoK declined to 32 percent in mid-2016 from 58 percent in 2012. The two nations resumed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on sending and receiving Vietnamese to work in the RoK.
Accordingly, the RoK has pledged to welcome around 3,500 Vietnamese employees in 2016.
Previously, illegal Vietnamese workers had to get administrative fines and be deported back to Vietnam. They were also banned from returning to the RoK for 10 years.
Illegal workers who voluntarily came back home were not allowed to enter the RoK for two years, said Nguyen Ngoc Quynh, Head of the Overseas Labour Management Department under the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MoLISA).
However, now, illegal workers who voluntarily register to come home between April 1 and September 30 will be exempted from administrative fines and have opportunities to work again in the RoK under the Korean employment permit system (EPS). The aim is to reduce the proportion of illegal Vietnamese workers in the RoK, he added.
Under the MoU, Vietnam and the RoK will continue to select eligible workers, he said, adding that a new requirement is that all workers claiming to have a Korean language certificate will have to take an exam to evaluate their professional skills.
Those who had a Korean language certificate and returned home on schedule will be first considered, he said, noting that about 12,000 eligible workers are expected to return to the RoK.
He said more should be done to reduce the ratio of illegal Vietnamese workers in the RoK. Though the current 32 percent is accepted by the RoK, the figure remains high compared to other countries.
“If we do not continuously bring this proportion down, the number of workers under the MoU will be restricted,” he stressed.
According to MoLISA Deputy Minister Doan Mau Diep, the number of illegal Vietnamese workers in the RoK stands at about 15,000.
From now until 2018, it is necessary to encourage them to return home, he suggested.
The ministry’s Center of Overseas Labour said workers with nearly-expired contracts will be introduced to new businesses.
The centre will forge links between workers returning home and Korean companies operating in Vietnam, said the center’s Deputy Director Le Manh Hung.