South Korea aims to curtail Thai “little ghosts” seeking work

Thais gather at a Bangkok trade fair where job opportunities abroad are advertised.

Thailand and South Korea have followed the international trend in agreeing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to limit the “little ghosts” or illegal immigrants who shouldn’t be there. Wannabe Thai labourers, seeking work in the seasonal agriculture and fisheries industries of South Korea which are both seriously understaffed, are now instructed to apply for the half-yearly E-8 seasonal worker visa which will guarantee them welfare rights as well as a monthly salary of around 50,000 baht (US$1,500) or five times higher than the Thai minimum wage.

At least 5,000 new Thai workers are expected to apply via this route as they do not need to take a Korean-language proficiency test and have no additional costs such as paying visa agents under-the-table. Labourers need to be aged 25-45 (the earlier upper limit was 39) and be able demonstrate some experience in the fields or at sea. The MoU was signed by the Thai Department of Employment and a local mayor of South Korea’s Jinan county which is where the job opportunities are mostly located.

South Korean authorities have many times in the past sought to discourage illegal Thai workers who typically pay Thai visa agents to arrange a flight ostensibly for tourist and sight-seeing reasons. They then work illegally and could risk fines of around 20,000 GBP. But the “little ghosts” have often been ignored or given amnesty as South Korea is desperate for foreign labour input. The country has the lowest birth rate in the world.