Thursday, August 18, 2005

Corruption and the EPS

Here's a story that Matt brought to my attention looking at corruption in the new EPS system, a topic I mentioned in my last post. The article claims that bribery in sending countries has been one source of slowness in the system:

Ever since last August, when Korea adopted a new work permit system for foreign laborers, the process of recruiting workers has mostly been handled by the governments in the workers' home countries, including Indonesia. And corruption in some of those governments has become a serious problem for the program. To work in Korea, applicants in Indonesia typically wind up having to pay government officials the equivalent of 4 million won ($3,900) to 7 million won, which is about 40 to 70 times a typical worker's monthly income. Before the new work permit system, the workers had to pay about 2 million won.

The important point here is that (...) there has been a transition from a recruitment-based system run by Korean firms, to a recruitment-based system run jointly by recieving and sending countries. In my pessimistic opinion, it just seems that rent seeking and bribery, already a feature in most migrant sending locales, is simply becoming more visible in this case. Indonesia has an elaborate recruitment system already, comprising recruiters that work with local, regional, and national agencies. What has changed is that the older Korean recruiters (KITCO, ATCO) are no longer part of the chain as the Korean government now recruits directly. I guess direct government recruitment ends up politicizing corruption along the chain, as governments, legitimately, face more public scrutiny, and it dampens any image of equality or fairness in the recruitment process. Hopefully, then, the government could put pressure to ensure more fairness in the process, but looking at how pervasive this kind of behavior is, I doubt that significant changes will be made.

As for the jump in price in bribes for migration. This is most likely because the EPS is a higher quality 'product' offerring more job security and rights than the old trainee system, which basically was a ticket to becoming an illegal worker as the majority of trainees fled their workplaces.

In case you are interested, below is a diagram of the process of hiring foreign workers from the EPS website. It shows foreign government's role in the process quite clearly. What is also rather interesting is the criteria for selecting sending-countries. In the past it has been countries with which Korea has economic links, and this continues, except things like rates of overstayers seem to influence quotas. Here is a document from the EPS site discussing this directly. On the creepier side of things, here is the link to the government's online form to report illegal immigrants.


  1. Here is the link to the diagram if you want better resolution.

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