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South Korea gives nod for foreign workers at Plant construction sites amid opposition

Korean government allowed foreign workers with E-9 or H-2 visas to work at petrochemical, steel making and power station construction sites that have not been accessible for foreign workers since 2007.

 

Newsnomics AJAY ANGELINA reporter |

South Korean plant construction workers’ union in the opposition of hiring foreign labor at construction companies held staged rallies in different cities of the country including Seoul, Yeosu in South Jeolla Province and

Ulsan on Wednesday.


The official from the Korean Plant Construction Workers’ Union said, “we fully condemn Yoon Suk Yeol’s administration that listens to plant construction companies to use manpower on cheap rates through foreign workers. As many of the Koreans are facing difficulties finding jobs at plant construction sites as construction

business continues to stagnate.” 


“An accident at these facilities would have a significant adverse impact on the lives and property of the public. Therefore, reckless use of foreign workers who lack Korean language at plant construction sites may cause problems in communication, which could lead to fatal industrial accidents.”


“As of today, we declare to fight against the government using all our resources to prevent the government

from allowing foreign workers to work at plant construction sites,” the Korean Plant Construction Workers’

Union announced.


However, “there is a severe shortage of workers for a series of factory construction projects in southern regions. The government should make efforts for construction firms to use foreign workers at plant construction sites,” Cho In-ho, chairman of the Korea Mechanical Construction Contractors Association, told SMEs Minister Lee Young at a meeting in September 2023.


Construction companies have urged the Korean government for years to ease regulations so that they can

hire foreign labor. The government is now considering whether or not to allow the construction companies to hire foreign workers with E-9 visa.

 

Currently, E-9 visa is for foreign workers employed in non-professional occupations, including manufacturing,

construction, agriculture, fishery and livestock, where specific qualifications or experience are not required.


since 2007, Korea has banned construction companies from hiring foreign workers in key industries, including the construction of power plants, steel mills and petrochemicals factories in order to prevent the dissemination of important technologies. However, construction companies have claimed that foreign workers will not steal

any important technology know-how, as the foreign workers would be deployed to complete the tasks of

welding and plumbing on construction sites.

 

Conclusively on Wednesday, South Korean construction site industry, Korea’s Office for Government Policy

Coordination, Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, Ministry of Employment and Labor and Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport recently agreed to allow foreigners with E-9 or H-2 visas to work at petrochemical, steelmaking and power station construction sites in the country that have not been accessible by foreign workers since 2007.

 

Under the agreement, the Korean government plans to remove those construction sites from the list of the

country’s so-called “important national facilities,” which could seriously threaten national security if any of them is occupied, destroyed or malfunctioned by an enemy or any of their technologies is leaked.

 

Those facilities include public institutions, airports, ports, harbors and major industrial facilities as well as pet-

rochemical, steelmaking and power plants.
 


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