S-Space College of Social Sciences (사회과학대학) Institute for Social Development and Policy Research (사회발전연구소) Development and Society Development and Society Vol.28 No.1/2 (1999)
International Labor Migration and Financial Crisis in Korea
- Seok, Hyun Ho
- Issue Date
- Institute for Social Development and Policy Research, Center for Social Sciences, Seoul National University
- Development and Society, Vol.28 No.1, pp. 139-165
- As the Korean economy became severely depressed due to the eruption of the financial crisis in November 1997, most foreign migrant workers in the country were expected ti return to their home countries. However, only one quarter of them moved out of the country, and recently this number has begun to increase. This study uses government statistics and survey data to explore causes of their relative immobility at both the macro- and micro-level. Main findings from the study are: (1) the amnesty measure, which was a major government policy to reduce the number of illegal sojourners, exerted some positive effect in the first few months after the crisis, but did not in later periods; (2) the migrant workers' return rates are negatively associated with the economic development levels of origin countries, indicating that employment and income opportunities at origins are important factors determining mobility; (3) small- and medium-size manufacturing companies still prefer to hire migrant workers over native workers, due to cheaper wages for the former as well as difficulties in recruiting native workers in 3D jobs; and above all (4) most migrant workers, regardless of their sojourn status, desire to stay in the country since their total earnings are less than their migration costs or not as much as they planned, or since they cannot get a job in their home country. With these findings we can hardly expect a massive return of migrant workers. On the contrary, it may well be suggested that the number of immigrant workers will continue to increase as the country's economy recovers from the depression.
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