Korean job quota:What has the Minister done?

By Nalaka Nonis

Korean job quotas offered to the Sri Lankan government are riddled with controversy with claims of an alleged political interference and money-making deals resulting in genuine job seekers being deprived of a chance of employment in Korea.

Sri Lanka received slots for 13,000 Korean jobs from the period August 2004 to August 2006 but so far only some 3,500 Sri Lankan workers have been sent to Korea.

However sources claimed that countries like Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and Mongolia have made the best use of the job quota given to them by the Korean Government.

Though Sri Lanka has received 13,000 job quotas by the Korean Government, it is up to the Korean employers to select the number they want to employ.

In this context promotion activities are required to make the Korean employers aware about the capabilities of Sri Lankan job seekers.

But Foreign Employment Bureau (FEB) sources said that the Employment Ministry is not dong enough to promote Sri Lankan job seekers in Korea.
Initially the FEB charged Rs. 83,000 to send workers to Korea but now they charge Rs. 177,000.

The FEB is earning a profit of approximately Rs. 100,000 by way of a single worker. The charge was increased saying the extra funds were needed for promotional activities in Korea. Korean job seekers were initially selected through paper advertisements but as time went on this system was abandoned and instead the persons nominated only by politicians are now being selected for Korean jobs.

Nothing wrong, says Labour Minister

Labour Minister Athauda Seneviratne denied allegations that Korean jobs have been politicized and misused for the purpose of fraudulently obtaining money from job seekers.

He said applications had been called for jobs in Korea through a paper advertisement and said the ministry was still receiving applications and the selection process was continuing. The Minister emphasized that people shouldn’t pay money to various people in the hope of obtaining Korean jobs and said the CID was asked to investigate a fraud in the Korean job division where two officials accused of allegedly tampering with the names of job seekers were interdicted. However The Sunday Times learns that these officials are yet to be questioned by the CID.

A Ministry official told The Sunday Times that some 3,000 applicants were selected through newspaper advertisements; 1,000 by a top official of the FEB, 1,500 through the Labour Minister and about 2,000 more were selected through recommendations made by the MPs and ministers.

Reportedly some people with strong political clout and their relations were making use of Korean jobs to earn commissions.

It’s alleged that these people make it possible for people to go to Korea through government avenues on the payment of an amount which was over and above the official fee.

It has come to light that some people had even paid amounts ranging from 300,000 to 400,000 make their way to Korea.

The demand for Sri Lankan workers in Korea has not been so encouraging when compared with those coming in from other countries. One of the reasons is that persons who are able to work under difficult conditions and who possess a basic knowledge about their jobs have not been picked by Sri Lanka. This has made the Koreans to favour workers from other countries who were more committed and competent in the relevant fields they were selected for.

“It isn’t a question of Sri Lankans being unwilling to work hard or not being competent; the problem lies in the selection process.

For example if a person living in Colombo is sent to work in a farm in Korea, he will find it difficult to fit in well. Authorities should open the market for qualified people as a means of increasing our job quota without politicizing it,” a ministry official on the condition of anonymity emphasized.

It is known that though Sri Lanka had been offered 1,000 jobs in the agricultural sector only about 300 persons have been employed in that sector and it is the bad track record of Sri Lankan employees that has brought about this unfortunate situation resulting in the reduction of the market.

A few months ago Minister Seneviratne -- referring to the people who returned to Sri Lanka having abruptly terminated their jobs – said such people who were unable to work hard should not go to Korea for employment and this will create a bad impression of Sri Lanka.

It has come to be known that names of job seekers selected by Korean employers have been tampered with by certain unscrupulous officials and other names inserted in their place and sent to Korea.

Here the modus operandi has been to change the photograph in the application of the person approved by employers in Korea and the photograph of another attached instead.

Then with the help of a forged passport such a person is sent to Korea.

Ravi Lasantha (28) in Wadduwa, one of the victims of this racket told The Sunday Times that though he was selected by a Korean employer to work in a plastic manufacturing company, he was not informed of his selection but instead somebody in the FEB without his knowledge had written to his prospective employer saying he was unable to accept the contract.

Lasantha said this was done to deny him the chance of a Korean job and to enable somebody else favoured by the racketeers in this business to travel to Korea.

He said he came to know later that his photograph which was in the website of job seekers had been replaced by that of another though his remained unchanged.

Another racket was to delete the names of genuine job seekers who passed the medical examination and insert the names of others.

In one instance Minister Athauda Seneviratne had written to the FEB chairman on October 27 last year asking that names of 30 people who were earlier rejected by Korean employers be included in the Korean job website.

In his letter the Minister had also told the FEB chairman not to send these 30 people for medical examinations at a government hospital which was the usual practice before the names were forwarded to Korea through the FEB.

On December 21 last year the Minister had asked the FEB Korean Job Division manager to delete three names from the Korean list on the request of a party organizer in Batticaloa.

Two officials in the FEB Korean job division were interdicted in February for allegedly inserting other names in the Korean list in place of the one sent by the Minister.

Though the Minister undertook to refer the matter to the CID and the Bribery Commission so far the matter was lying dormant.

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