More universities in South Korea have been penalised for “inadequate supervision” of foreign students who enter the country for language training or enrol for four-year degrees but then disappear.
This year, 18 higher education institutions, including Suwon, Yong In and Jeonju universities have been banned from recommending visas for foreign students at their institutions (effectively barring those universities from admitting foreign students) for degree programmes, and 19 universities, including Hanshin, Chosun and Daejin universities, have been barred from accepting first-year students for Korean language programmes.
In 2021, 15 higher education institutions were banned for a year from recommending visas for foreign students at their institutions. They included eight four-year universities, four junior colleges and three graduate schools.
According to the authorities, student visa overstayers had taken advantage of the shift to online education during the pandemic which made it more difficult for institutions to monitor attendance.
The ‘black’ economy
Many of the students overstayed their visas and entered the ‘black’ economy, effectively as illegal immigrants. Police also believe some intended to use the student visa route to study for a short time and then attempt to get jobs in areas such as construction, and in factories and on farms.
Annual assessments of universities’ management of foreign students have been conducted by the education and justice ministries since 2012. The Ministry of Education has imposed sanctions – such as the one-year ban on a university’s capacity to recommend foreign students for visas – if the university is found to have over 10% of their foreign students overstaying or residing illegally.
According to data from the Ministry of Justice, since the onset of the pandemic, an increasing number of international students have failed to leave the country after their visas expire. However, the numbers of overstayers had been rising even before the pandemic, coinciding with an increase in foreign student numbers.
In 2019, some 164 Vietnamese students enrolled at Incheon National University’s Korean language school were reported to police by the university after remaining unaccounted for after 15 days. Institutions are legally required to report foreign students who do not attend classes for that period. The students were among 1,900 Vietnamese students on a one-year Korean language training programme at the university that had started that same year.