The South Korean government will allow foreign workers with non-professional work visas (E-9) to work in restaurants facing severe labor shortages.
The measure was taken as part of efforts to innovate civil regulations agreed during a meeting of relevant ministers chaired by Prime Minister Han Duck-soo on Wednesday. A total of 167 regulations were addressed, including 50 inconveniences and burdensome regulations for the public and 117 regulatory difficulties for small and medium-sized businesses.
Under the measures, the E-9 quota for the restaurant industry is expected to be expanded from 3,000 to 10,000 in stages. There is also a possibility that the government could implement the measure as a pilot project.
The employment permit system, introduced in 2004, issues E-9 and H-2 visitor visas for small and medium-sized enterprises to hire foreign workers. E-9 visa holders can only work in industries such as agriculture, fisheries, manufacturing, construction, and some service sectors where Korean workers are reluctant to work. The total quota for this year is 120,000. The government plans to include the restaurant industry in these avoided sectors. Overseas Koreans, including those who entered with an H-2 visa, are already allowed to work in restaurants, so the benefits of this regulatory innovation will be extended to foreign workers, particularly those from Southeast Asia.
The government has been expanding the eligibility for foreigners to work in the restaurant industry. This year, it expanded the employment sectors for H-2 visa holders to include the entire restaurant industry. It also extended the working hours for international students on D-2 visas to work part-time during weekdays. However, as complaints continued about the shortage of labor in the restaurant industry, the government has decided to revise the E-9 visa program.
The government’s latest innovation plan also included allowing online sales of contact lenses. Until now, consumers had to purchase disposable contact lenses by visiting an eyeglass store or via overseas websites. The perfume duty-free limit, which has been set at 60 ml since 1979, will also be raised to 100 ml. Additionally, it will become possible to raise bees in national forests, and expired Onnuri Gift Certificates will also be accepted.
By Kim Dong-eun, Lee Jin-han, and Yoon Yeon-hae
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