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12 New Policies and Changes That Will Thrill Expats in South Korea

2022 is an exciting year for expats in South Korea or for foreign workers planning to move to the country.

The minimum wage increased by 5% to KRW 9,160 per hour this month, up KRW 440 from last year. The Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK) will include a speaking part in the second half of this year. In addition, self-driving buses will be available in Seoul’s downtown area.

These are some of the significant developments in the country in 2022 that expats and foreign visitors should be aware of.

1. Increase in minimum wage

The minimum salary for 2022 has been established at 9,160 won (US$7.7) per hour, exceeding 9,000 won (US$7.5) for the first time.

The Finance Ministry verified this, stating that the minimum wage for 2022 has been raised from 8,720 won (US$7.3) in 2021, a rise of 5.1 percent year-on-year.

This year’s enhanced minimum wage means daily earnings of at least KRW 73,280 over eight hours and monthly compensation of at least KRW 1,914,440 over 40 work hours each week. The rate applies to all workers, including foreigners and expats in South Korea, employed under the Labor Standards Act, regardless of type of employment or nationality, at all businesses across the country.

12 New Policies and Changes that Expats in South Korea Should Know: Migrants
Migrant workers in South Korea

2. Paid public and substitute holidays

Private enterprises with 5 to 29 employees are now required to give paid vacation for both public and substitute holidays. Private businesses were not required to pay employees on these official holidays until last year.

3. Deterrent measures against sexual assault and discrimination in the workplace

In addition, workplace preventive measures against sexual assault and gender-based discrimination would be strengthened. When a victim reports an event to the labor relations board, an inquiry is conducted to determine if the offender should be compensated or punished in any way.

4. Extra compensation for parental leave

Working parents would also be compensated extra for parental leave. If one or both parents take parental leave during the first year of their child’s birth, they will be paid 100% of their monthly salary, up to a maximum of US$2,500. According to a report, previously, only one parent could receive 100% of his or her monthly salary, while the other could receive only 80%.

5. TOPIK Online Test speaking section

Starting November 19, the online test TOPIK will feature a speaking section. The portion will be conducted once this year before progressively expanding next year, according to the Ministry of Education.

6. Gwanghwamun Plaza will be separated into two

Gwanghwamun Plaza in Seoul’s downtown will also change. The automobile lanes will be removed, and the plaza will be separated into “historical” and “civic” parts, with the plaza expanding 3.7 times its current area. The Hangeul-themed designs on the amenities at Gwanghwamun Plaza will provide a multitude of attractions. The civic plaza will open this year, followed by the historical plaza the following year.

12 New Policies and Changes that Expats in South Korea Should Know:  Gwanghwamun Plaza in South Korea's capital city of Seoul will be separated in two.
Gwanghwamun Plaza in South Korea’s capital city of Seoul.

7. Self-driving buses in Cheonggyecheon Stream

Two self-driving buses will begin operating in the capital’s Cheonggyecheon Stream region as early as April. Over the 4.8 km route between Cheonggye Plaza in Jongno-gu District and Cheonggye 5-ga in Jung-gu District, the locally produced cars will make 24 roundtrips.

8. Seasonal employment

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more policy modifications were enacted. Seasonal employment of foreign employees will be boosted in agricultural and fishing towns to help address labour shortages. The Ministry of Justice has made it possible to hire seasonal foreign employees all year and has increased the number of foreign workers or expats in South Korea authorized on a farm or in a fishing community from nine to twelve.

Seasonal workers include international students on the “full-time degree or exchange program” visa (D-2), native Koreans abroad who are on “work and visit” visa (H-2), foreign nationals visiting for cultural and artistic activities under “Korean arts and culture” visa (D-1) upon invitation from the Korean Foundation or the Arts Council Korea, and foreign nationals on “jobseeker” visa (D-10).

9. Updated COVID-19 re-entry policy

The COVID-19 re-entry permission policy, which went into force in June 2020 to restrict the spread of the virus, has also been updated. Foreign nationals were previously only permitted to reenter once, but beginning this year, people who have registered with immigration can obtain permission to enter twice or more in a given period if they have been completely vaccinated either in Korea or overseas.

Foreign nationals must get a vaccination pass or certificate from a local community center, as well as a vaccine pass sticker, and apply for a reentry permission on the Hi Korea website.

10. F-4 Visa for ethnic Korean children

Children in mixed households and native Koreans from other countries will also benefit more. The Ministry of Justice said that it began providing the F-4 (overseas Korean) visa to children of native Koreans from China or Central Asia on January 3 in order to protect their educational rights.

In addition, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family would invest KRW 3.7 billion to assist multicultural families with school-aged children and provide counseling services at 140 locations around the country. Children who are not yet old enough to attend classes will get Korean reading and writing lessons.

11. Educational Fee Support for children of expats in South Korea

From March, foreign children of expats in South Korea, particularly those aged 3-5 in Seoul will get education fee support equal to that provided to South Korean children, according to the city’s education administration.

Foreign children enrolled in public kindergartens will receive up to 150,000 won ($126) a month from the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education. Of the total support, 100,000 won will be allocated for daytime programs and 50,000 won will be allocated for after-school programs.

Those enrolling in private kindergartens will get up to 350,000 won (280,000 won for daytime activities and 70,000 won for after-school programs).

With the necessary documents, including the alien registration card, parents can apply for educational fee support for their children at kindergartens.

12 New Policies and Changes that Expats in South Korea Should Know: For children
Foreign children in South Korea

12. Stay Visa for undocumented foreign children

South Korea will temporarily increase the number of visas issued to foreign children, of expats in South Korea, who are unlawfully living in the country in order to better protect their right to education.

If they are enrolled in elementary, middle, or high schools, or are high school graduates, foreign children who have lived in the country for at least six years starting from the day of their birth in South Korea or who have entered the country when they were younger than the age of six will be granted stay visas from next month to March 2025.

Those who arrived after the age of six will be granted stay visas provided they have lived in the nation for at least seven years and are enrolled in elementary, middle, or high schools, or have graduated from high school.

Students will be issued a D-4 study visa, while high school graduates will be issued visas that will allow them to attend college or find work.



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