Contributed By Yoon & Yang LLC (Seoul - HQ)
Methods of employing foreigners can be largely divided into two categories. The first method is through the “Hiring Foreigners with Professional Skills” system and “Other Status Stay that permits Employment (mainly those who are not professionals or simple-skilled workers)” under the Immigration Act. The second method consists of the “Employment Permit System” and “Work Permit System” based on the Act on Employment etc. of Foreign Workers (the “Foreign Worker Employment Act”).
To begin with, the Employment Permit System is a system that allows an employer to employ certain foreigners if that employer could not hire domestic employees despite its recruiting efforts.
The Work Permit System, on the other hand, allows a foreigner who satisfies certain conditions to obtain a work permit in Korea to be employed with an employer of such foreigner’s choice. This system allows for a relatively broader movement of foreign workers among workplaces in Korea compared to the Employment Permit System.
In Korea, the Employment Permit System ordinarily serves as the default system for hiring manual labourers. As for Koreans who hold foreign nationalities, the Work Permit System is applied.
Article 2 of the Foreign Worker Employment Act defines “foreign worker” as a person without Korean nationality who provides or desires to provide labour in return for wages in any business or workplace situated within Korea. Anyone within the meaning of “foreign worker” must satisfy the requirements and follow the requisite procedures under the Foreign Worker Employment Act in order to be employed in Korea. In addition, any matters not provided under the Foreign Worker Employment Act relating to entering, leaving or staying in Korea must be handled in accordance with the Immigration Act.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Worker Employment Act provides that the Act does not apply to foreigners with any of the following visas who are permitted to stay and work in Korea (ie visas that allow the visa holder to pursue employment activities in Korea):
Pursuant to Article 18 of the Foreign Worker Employment Act, a foreign worker may pursue employment activities for up to three years from the date he or she enters Korea. Further, foreigners staying in Korea, as a principle, are subject to the sovereignty of Korea. Additionally, unless a foreigner’s rights under the public or private laws are otherwise restricted through treaties or laws, foreigners and Koreans receive identical protections.