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Korean language tests for foreign guest-workers

April 11th, 2006 . by Matt

The long planned Korean language tests for foreign guest-workers that went into effect on August 17, 2005 has verifiably taken place in Vietnam, according to The Saigon Times.

Language test for Korea-bound guest-workers
Some 7,000 Vietnamese laborers in Hanoi, HCMC and Vinh City have taken part in a test of Korean in Vietnam, Sai Gon Giai Phong reports. Laborers who pass the test will be granted a certificate and guided how to register as guest-workers in South Korea under a new license-granting program.

The language tests are designed to reduce cultural friction, and Koreans concerned with the labor rights of foreign workers hope that a certain level of Korean ability will help foreign laborers understand and protect their rights as employees. Naturally this is a good idea, However, Koreans may find that workers that are able to speak Korean will soon change their motivation from being a guest-worker to being a fully fledged citizen of Korea. Guest-workers that know the language will be able to work the system, and also lay down roots in Korea, possibly marrying Korean citizens. Since this is obviously not the intention of the tests, Koreans may not like the result.

That may be better than the alternative, though. For some reason, when it comes to the treatment of foreign laborers, Korea ranks right up there with countries in the Middle East, like Saudi Arabia. It is claimed to be so bad that foreign workers returning to their home countries start to actively campaign against Korea. The most well known case of this is an organisation in Thailand called the ‘Anti Korean Interests Agency’ (AIKA) that threatened terrorist attacks against Korean targets, including Korean citizens in SE Asia, and Korean Air. I read somewhere that these former foreign laborers are angry at the treatment they recieved in Korea, including being ripped off, and beaten. Of course, employers (and immigration police) have a reputation for beating up foreign workers for a reason, as images like these ones from a show on SBS reveal.

beat up worker

beat up worker
The foreign worker says, “I dont know why they beat me up”

If the situation is bad enough that former foreign workers are threatening terrorism, then the language tests are probably a good thing. Still, just speaking the language may not be enough. Several years down the track, the Korean left may find itself with new ‘allies’ in immigrants, illegal immigrants, and migrant workers that support the class struggle but frame it through a lens of racial grievance. It will be interesting to see how Korea deals with this.


18 Responses to “Korean language tests for foreign guest-workers”


  1. […] Occidentalism’s Matt looks at a recent move by the South Korean government aimed at improving the situation of the country’s foreign worker population. […]

  2. comment number 2 by: Katz

    So to solve this problem should be to remain in their own countries and contribute for it and not being some wannabe idiot.


  3. […] It is a must-read. […]

  4. comment number 4 by: Matt

    So to solve this problem should be to remain in their own countries and contribute for it and not being some wannabe idiot.

    Katz, of course you are right that if they dont come, any problems can be avoided. However, there is a need for them, which is why it will probably continue.

  5. comment number 5 by: Katz

    Katz, of course you are right that if they dont come, any problems can be avoided. However, there is a need for them, which is why it will probably continue.

    Sorry, no need. Better way would be respect Koreans and their will, if they say they like Koreans and love them.

  6. comment number 6 by: Matt

    Sorry, no need. Better way would be respect Koreans and their will, if they say they like Koreans and love them.

    The workers are going to Korea because the Korean government and businesses allow them too. They think that Koreans want them.

  7. comment number 7 by: Katz

    It’s not that Koreans want them. They hire them to occupy jobs that most Koreans don’t want.

  8. comment number 8 by: dogbert

    So to solve this problem should be to remain in their own countries and contribute for it and not being some wannabe idiot.

    This is my advice to Koreans like you.

  9. comment number 9 by: Katz

    The intentions by which we go to other countries in general are better life, not wannabes like you.

  10. comment number 10 by: dogbert

    So stay in Korea and make a better life for your fellow Koreans. Don’t just bug out when things get tough for you.

    Lots of Koreans grew up without running water or toilets, not to mention color TVs. They stayed and made something of themselves and their country. Wannabes like you couldn’t hack it and fled.

  11. comment number 11 by: polysics

    http://en.chinabroadcast.cn/974/2006/03/16/[email protected]

    (Shanghai Daily via China Daily) The high-heeled woman who shocked China’s pet lovers by stomping a kitten to death in a notorious video has apologized.

    The woman, a Heilongjiang Province nurse named Wang Jue, said she was despondent over a failed marriage and allowed herself to be talked into crushing the animal to death while the cameras rolled.

    The video was later posted on the Internet and could be downloaded for free. It was used to attract viewers to a Website that featured videos of small animals being stomped to death by aggressive women. The Website, which sold the discs for 15 yuan each, is no longer operating.

    Immediately after the video was posted several weeks ago, enraged animal lovers began tracking down those involved in making the video.

    The actress and the video’s producer were traced to Luobei County in the northern province.

    The woman’s apology, and an earlier mea culpa from the video’s producer, a cameraman at a provincial TV station, were posted this week on the county government’s Website. The woman expressed remorse for her actions and their effects on others.

    Wang said she is divorced, depressed and having trouble figuring out what to do with her life. She said her despondence led to the cruelty against the kitten. She also said that her behavior had deeply hurt her family, especially her daughter.

    Both Wang and the man who produced the video were suspended from their jobs after they were identified. It was not clear what further punishments they might face – if any – as China does not have clear-cut laws preventing cruelty to animals.

  12. comment number 12 by: Matt

    Lol, not exactly relevant to foreign workers, but a messed up story none the less!

  13. comment number 13 by: ponta

    http://www.g-masta.co.kr/music/music_15.htm
    http://www.excite.co.jp/world/korean/web/?wb_url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.g%2Dmasta.co.kr%2Fmusic%2Fmusic%5F15.htm&wb_lp=KOJA&wb_dis=2

    Few Japanese will pass the Korean language tests,but give Japanese a bit of love,please.
    Have mercy on Japanese,please!!!

  14. comment number 14 by: Matt

    Hey!!! I was just about to post about that!

  15. comment number 15 by: Matt

    Ponta, I posted about it.

  16. comment number 16 by: qbe9584

    What kind of jobs are people who are being abused getting? Is the mistreatment isolated to certain sector, like maybe construction, or service industry, or education? Is it across industries and ethnicity dependent? What’s the link?


  17. […] A very nasty attack. Of course, abuse of Filipino workers is nothing new. It happens in South Korea, it happens in countries in the Middle East and Malaysia. The problem is apparently so rife that it is damaging diplomatic relations between the Philipines and other countries. Posted by Matt Filed in diplomacy […]


  18. […] These actions come after last years introduction of Korean language tests that the government and activists hope will reduce cultural friction and help foreign workers stick up for their legal rights. […]