Under a revision to the immigrant foreign criminal control law, the so-called "marriage immigrants" will be given an exclusive F-6 visa, which will allow them to "legally stay in the country even if their marital life ends due to unexpected events such as their Korean spouses' death or disappearance." The law was originally proposed earlier this year, but was held up as legal experts debated the wording of the new law, and whether - given the conditions many foreign immigrants claim they live under - the death or disappearance of a Korean spouse could be termed "unexpected".
The criminal nature of some of these foreigners often causes trouble for the government in effectively handling the steady inflow of these immigrants, according to the Korean Justice Ministry. A ministry spokesman said that the introduction of the new visa would "help the marriage immigrants better adapt themselves to Korean society." Koreans already have the right to have their spouses disappear.
Foreigners lucky enough to be chosen by Koreans for marriage currently receive F-2 residency permits, but they have no right to remain post-divorce, which means that once they have been used up the empty shells are returned to their countries of origin, which has sparked complaints from foreign governments concerned at the increasing strain this has placed on their mental health services. The new F-6 visa will shift some of that burden back to Korea, but the government say that while this will create extra costs, it will also help to promote medical tourism in this country.
The new visa law also allows foreigners to officially buy an F-2 visa for the first time, but it has been met with criticism as the $500,000 cost is much more than the gift to immigration officials used to be, which the new system replaces. However, the ministry has pointed out that an alternate purchase option allows foreign 'investors' a special introductory rate of $300,000 if they hire at least three Koreans - but no foreigners of course - for three years. Given an hourly minimum wage of 4,580 won ($4) this would mean a cost of $10,000 per worker per year, based on a 40-hour work week, giving a total of $390,000 over three years, saving $110,000. In reality, the ministry also accepts that foreigners may adopt the Korean employment practice of requiring employees work 80-hour weeks for half the minimum wage, which will not change the final cost, although foreigners will not be permitted to run prostitution-related businesses. The Vietnamese Embassy has already lodged a protest.
The $500,000 cost of a non-marriage residency visa makes South Korea one of the more expensive OECD nations to buy a place in, but the government is unapologetic, citing its long-standing policy of keeping out foreigners from what are officially classed as 'poor and dirty countries', which has seen only 223 asylum seekers granted entry in the last 20 years. However, the Korean Justice Ministry points out that of the thousands of asylum seekers who have been returned to their regimes, none say they have lived to regret it.
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