We are looking for essay writers who will help promote the awareness of refugee rights in Korea. NANCEN wants to let the voice of refugees heard as they want to be heard in Korea society. We wish Koreans could come to understand that refugees are not to be feared or pitied. If you are interested in this project, please contact to refucenter@gmail.com, Ku. 

The Job Market - In the Eyes of a Refugee Applicant


The process of getting a job with refugee applicant visa named G-1 is a world most travelled by asylum seekers here in Korea. G-1 visa is designated to applicants who have successfully satisfied the initial requirements of the immigration service after lodging their complaints and ordeals for asylum. You are required not to work with this G-1 visa until it’s six months. This is where it gets tricky. Just imagine an applicant fleeing from persecution or any other ordeal who had nothing but his/her life to save finding him/herself in this predicament. To add salt to injury, there is a penalty should you flout this directive. Not being sarcastic, the formulators of this policy are heard silently whispering “You can work but please don’t be caught”.

ⓒ the refugee art project

Being the lucky one under the sun, you’ve managed to survive the first six months, hurray!!! It’s now time to renew your visa. If you have been working underground, you will need to ask for permission for this exercise. In responsible companies, they will help in booking a reservation for your renewal and even go the extra mile in delegating someone to accompany you on the day.

Many jobs are advertised online and in the newspapers but without a Korean language skill, your best bet in finding one is to approach labour agencies and agents. For a fee of 100,000 - 150,000 Won, the labour agent will lay before you job options from which to choose from. He/She will then call the company’s boss about the vacancy, salary, accommodation, working hours, holidays, direction to the company among other details pertaining to the said vacancy. When there is an agreement, the agency fee is paid and address of the company handed to you by the agent. It does not always run smoothly. Sometimes, the advertised job does not correspond to what you find upon visiting the job site. If not impressed, there is a “money back guarantee” or another job in replacement. Most jobs for G-1 visas are outside of Seoul and so, you worked and returned to Seoul during the weekends if you lived in Seoul. Most factory work run for 12 hrs, normally 8 a.m to 8 p.m or the reverse if you are on the night shift. 

I remember working in a food company that made Tofu. It was a small family owned business of 15 workers including two siblings and their father working together with us. The process of making the Tofu more often than not exceeded the appointed working hours and caused conflict because the owner wasn’t ready to pay for the overtime and i was also not ready to work extra hours without getting paid. After several complaints without a solution to the problem, i decided to abandon the work one day, in the middle of the process when it was time for me to close, they were furious because no one had done that before but i had to set a precedence. 

Well, a little background of how the Tofu was prepared industrial style. The company is housed in a three story building. The Kitchen, where the Tofu is cooked is on the ground floor; the administrative office, dining area and packaging of the Tofu is on the second floor, while the the mixing of the Soybean and other ingredients are done on the third floor. The mixed Soybean is passed down from the third floor by means of tubes to the kitchen on the ground floor. It is then cooked to a specified temperature and when it is ready, it is fetched into a rectangular tray laid with clean sheets. The top of it is covered with the sheets and a heavy tray cover is placed on the covered Tofu. It is then passed through a compressing line to get excess water out of the Tofu through the sheets and the perforated tray. My job starts at the end of the compressing line. 

The tofu factory where the writer was working

I take the tray do away with the lid/cover, open the sheets and cut the Tofu into the required shape and pass it on to another, who will put it into a pack and then unto a line to be filled with water, sealed and then to the second floor for packaging. Bear in mind, all these are done hurriedly because every phase has been programmed. A slight delay in performing any of the functions means less production, and ultimately less money. And no owner will allow that.

So, why was it difficult for the owner to understand it wasn’t fair to go beyond our agreement? Probably, he thought he was doing me a favor. By insisting on the terms of our agreement, they started showing signs of respect and negotiated with me ahead of time if production was going to be late.

* Korean version : https://nancen.org/1869

Posted by 난민인권센터