To attract the crème de la crème, South Korea floats immigration shakeup
Yoon administration faces uphill battle to reverse demographic trends and change public perceptions about foreigners
South Korea’s Yoon Suk-yeol administration wants to bring in top foreign talent to bolster the country’s declining population and drive its economy forward. But transforming what has historically been a closed society into an immigration destination won’t be easy.
To achieve the goals the new government has set forth, the country really needed immigration reform yesterday. South Korea is a rapidly aging society: Koreans live long lives and don’t have many children.
Recognizing the need for change, justice minister Han Dong-hoon is considering a new agency to act as a “control tower” to get ahold of the best and brightest from abroad.
At first glance, it shouldn’t be too difficult for Han to make dynamic and wealthy South Korea a more attractive country for new arrivals.
But the problem is twofold. The Yoon administration is not only going to need to make South Korea more attractive to foreigners, but also convince a somewhat skeptical Korean public that immigration is a good thing.
IMMIGRATION NATION CREATION
South Korea has a myriad of visa options and routes to achieving longer-term residency, but their requirements are not conducive to the level of immigration the country needs.
Points-based residency visas are skewed toward those with high incomes and degrees in science and engineering.
But in the grand scheme of things, these highly skilled and educated individuals can earn more money elsewhere. South Korea can’t even retain its own science and engineering graduates: According to a 2020 survey by the Ministry of Science and ICT, 40,000 have been leaving the country each year since 2010, with only 4,000 foreigners arriving to replace them.
Those making less money are on shakier ground, especially since immigrants
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