Guide to Employment in Korea for Foreign Workers

What this is For:

What Foreign Workers Need to Know when Working in Korea

Other Documentary Requirements:

July 2004

Employment Policy Office


Foreign workers:

We welcome you to Korea and thank you in advance for your contribution to the diverse industries of Korea including the manufacturing, construction, agriculture, and service sectors.

We will do our utmost to ensure that you receive fair treatment during your stay in korea.

We have prepared his guide booklet to help you make your stay in Korea more fruitful and enjoyable. We ask that you read the guidelines expressed in this booklet and keep them in mind at all times.

We ask for your active cooperation and earnest interest in complying with the policies in this guide booklet.

Thank you.

Ministry of Labor, Republic of Korea

What a foreign worker must always know in Korea

1. Personal Information

Name Nationality

Address (Tel: )

Passport No. Alien Registration No.

Date of Entry Expiry of Sojourn Period

2. Record of Employment

Date and Place of starting work in Korea

I started working at ____________________________________________(place)

on __________(month)________(date)________(year)

Changing Workplaces

(fill out if changing workplaces)

First change: to __________________on_______(month)_____(date)_____(year)

Second change: to _______________on_______(month)_____(date)_____(year)

Third change: to ________ ________on______(month)_____(date)_____(year)

3. Record of Sojourn

Original period of sojourn: from ___________________to_________________

First extension: from ______________________to _________________

Second extension: from ____________________to _________________

The Employment Permit System for foreign workers enables workers from countries with whicn the Korean government has concluded on MOU on sending workers to be legally employed by companies in Korea which have obtained a permit to employ foreign workers.

I. Legal Status of Foreign Workers

a. Foreign workers employed by companies in Korea under the EPS enjoy legal employment status (visa status of stay: E-9) and are thus protected just as Koreans are under the Labor Standards Act and other labor laws.

b. Foreign workers are required to join the Employment Insurance, Industrial Accident Compensation Insurance, National Health Insurance, and National Pension, and are eligible to receive benefits form such systems.

c. It is illegal for employers to discriminate against foreign workers by, for example, violating employment contracts or dismissing them without justifiable cause. At the same time, foreign workers must abide by all Korean laws related to their employment and actions and will face punishment for any violations of the law.

d. Foreign workers may work in Korea for up to three years. At the expiry of their period of sojourn, they must leave Korea.

e. Foreign workers may not be accompanied by any members of their family while they are employed in Korea.

II. Matters to be Observed by Foreign Workers

Before being placed in workplace entry into Korea

a. Completing employment education designed for foreign workers

b. A foreign worker must go to a designated employment education institute upon his/her entry into Korea and complete an employment education course for foreign workers.

c. Workers from Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Sri-Langka will take the course at HRD-Korea. Mongolian and Vietnamese workers will take the course at the Korea International Labor Foundation.

d. Employment education will last 20 hours or more (between 2 nights-3days and 3 nights-4 days) and cover the understanding of Korea, related laws and basic knowledge essential to their employment.

Medical Checkup

Under the Industrial Safety and Health Act, a foreign worker is required to undergo a medical checkup diring the employment period.

*A foreign worker who fails to pass the initial medical checkup will receive a second more rigorous checkup and be subject to immediate repatriation if the foreign workers fails to pass the more detailed checkup. Only when the results of the second checkup confirms that the worker in questions is without any epidemic disease, his/her application for admission into Korea be approved.

Joining Insurances

A foreign worker must join an accident insurance and a going-home expense insurance within 15 days and 80 days, respectively, of concluding an employment contract. (Workers are, in theory, supposed to purchase insurance policies during the employment education period)

Accident Insurance: Insurance against death or illness of a foreing worker other than industrial accidents at work (a foreign worker is required to purchase this insurance policy during the employment education period.)

Going-Home Expense Insurance: This insurance is designed to build up savings to pay for going-home expenses (air fare) of foreign workers (foreign workers will start paying insurance premiums to an account which will be decided by the employment education institute within 80 days from entry into Korea).

During the period of employment after placement at workplace

1) Alien Registration (within 90 days)

A foreign worker placed at a workplace is required to apply for and receive an alien registration at an immigration office or a branch office with jurisdiction for the region in which he/she resides within 90 days from entry into Korea.

* An alien registration form, passport, and three photos (3x4cm) are required and a service charge is imposed.

2) Limited changes of workplaces

A foreign worker must work at the workplace of the employer with whom he/she has conducted an employment contract before entry into Korea and must not leave the workplace where he/she has started working to work at a different workplace without justifiable reason.

Workplace changes are allowed only in exceptional cases where the current employment relations cannot be continued due to such reasons as follows:

[Justifiable reasons for changing workplaces]

In the event the employer terminates the employment contract under justifiable cause or refuses to renew it;

In the event a foreign worker cannot continue to work at a workplace due to the suspension of business, closure of business or other grounds for which the worker is not responsible;

In the event a workplace is placed under restriction from hiring foreign workers under the EPS due to a violation of human rights including physical assaults, delayed payment of wages and deterioration of working conditions; or

In the event a foreign worker is not fit to continue work at the workplace due to an injury caused by an accident but is able to work at another workplace.

[Matters to be observed when changing workplaces]

a. A change in workplace may be permitted within the allowed scope

b. of business types but is not allowed from one business type to

c. another.

d. A foreign worker shall be reported to the Immigration Office as

e. an illegal resident and repatriated immediately if he/she

Fails to apply for a workplace change within one month after termination of his/her previous employment contract;

Leaves his/her workplace without permission form the employer

Attempts to induce a change in workplace by intentionally neglecting his/her duties in order to move to another workplace where wages may be higher;

Fails to find a job in two months from the time the application for a workplace change is filed and thus, has not been able to receive a permit for a workplace change; or

Finds a job him/herself or through friends, co-workers and private job placement agencies.

In principle, workplace changes shall be limited to a total of three times. But in the event the three changes in workplace were made due to grounds solely accountable to the employer, an additional change may be allowed.

4. Renewal of employment contract and extension of period of sojourn

A foreign worker shall renew his/her employment contract with the employer every year during the period of employment. When he/she has renewed the employment contract, he/she must obtain a permit to extend the period of sojourn from the Immigration Office with jurisdiction over the workplace.

5. Employment stay limited to three years, accompanying family members not allowed, and timely departure required

The period of employment in Korea for a foreign worker is limited to a maximum of three years. After the lapse of three years, he/she must leave Korea. A foreign worker may not be accompanied by his/her family during the employment period.

*Under the procedures of the Employment Permit System, a foreign worker who voluntarily leaves Korea at the expiry of the employment period is allowed to return after one year of his/her departure from Korea.

6. How to receive insurance benefits

In the event of a foreign workers departure, change of workplace, death or disease other than industrial accidents, as well as delayed payment of wages, a foreign worker may receive insurance benefits as stated in related laws.

Departure Maturity Insurance (joined by employers)

When a foreign worker, who has continuously worked for over one (1) year at a workplace with five or more full-time employees, moves to another workplace or leaves Korea and applies for insurance benefits to the HRD-Korea, the insurer will directly send the insurance benefits to the workers account.

Going-Home Expenses Insurance (joined by foreign workers)

When a foreign worker is planning to leave Korea (excluding a temporary departure) soon, he/she shall submit a report of planned departure to an Employment Security Center and apply to HRD-Korea for insurance benefits. The insurer will send the insurance benefits to the workers account.

Accident Insurance (joined by foreign workers)

When a foreign worker suffers an accident other than an industrial accident and applies to HRD-Korea for insurance benefits, the insurer will examine the accident report and send the insurance benefits to the workers account.

In the event a foreign worker dies and a bereaved family member applies to HRD-Korea for insurance benefits, the HRD-Korea will check whether the person is a bona fide member of the bereaved family (in cooperation with the sending country). After the verification of such information, the insurer will send the insurance benefits to the account of the bereaved family member. (Along with said insurance benefits, other insurance benefits such as from the Departure Maturity Insurance and Going-Home Expense Insurance will be sent at the same time.)

Guarantee Insurance (joined by employers)

In the event an employer of a workplace, with less than 300 full-time workers or a workplace not covered by the Wage Claim Guarantee Act, delays payment of wages, the worker may apply to HRD-Korea for insurance benefits. The insurer shall examine the case to determine whether payment of wages has been actually delayed and if so, send the insurance benefits to the workers account.

3. Strict observance of Korean Laws

While a foreign worker stays in Korea, he/she must abide by all Korean laws. Any violation shall be subject to punishment.

1. Observance of the Act on Employment of Foreign Workers, etc.

a. In the event a foreign worker has not used the standard employment contract when concluding an employment contract; or

b. In the event a foreign worker has not subscribed to an accident insurance.

-he/she shall be subject to a fine not to exceed five (5) million won.

c. In the event a foreign worker is not insured by a going-home expense insurance; or

d. In the event a foreign worker has refused to respond or falsely responded to a public officials request to make a report or submit necessary documents.

-he/she shall subject to a negligence fine not to exceed one (1) million won.

2. Observance of the Immigration Controls Act

e.In the event a foreign worker has committed an act that he/she is not allowed to in accordance with the rules that govern his/her status of sojourn or in case a foreign worker remains in Korea after the period of lawful stay is over.

-he/she shall be subject to penal servitude or imprisonment not to exceed three (3) years or be subject to a fine not to exceed 20 million won.

f.In the event a foreign worker has left his/her designated workplace without permission or has not obtained a permit for a workplace change after leaving the workplace with permission; or

g. In the event a foreign worker has not applied for and received an alien registration within a certain number of days as required by law

-he/she shall be subject to imprisonment of one (1) year or a fine of up to five million won

h.In the event a foreign worker has not duly reported a change in any matters related to the alien registration or has not received an alien ID card; or

i.In the event a foreign worker knowingly makes false entries in various application forms or reports,

-he/she shall be subject to a fine not to exceed two (2) million won.

3.In the event a foreign worker has been found to have taken narcotics or committed crimes such as an assault, murder, or theft, he/she shall be subject to punishment according to related laws.

III. Protection of the Rights and Interests of Foreign Workers

1.Legal protection of rights

1.Protection under the Labor Standards Act

In general, working hours are 44 hours a week (eight hours a day). Upon agreement between a foreign worker and the employer, extended work is possible (applicable to workplaces with five or more full-time employees).

As a result of the revision of the Labor Standards Act, the 40-hour-work week will gradually apply to SMEs with less than 300 employees from July 2006 to the end of July 2011.

Wages are to be paid directly to workers in cash at least once a month on set days.

Employers may not, without consent from workers, deduct or save any part or all of workers wages

Foreign workers are entitled to receive additional wages for extended working hours, working at nights (22:00-06:00) or on holidays (applicable to workplaces with five or more full-time employees).

Foreign workers who have worked at a workplace for over one (1) year is eligible to receive severance pay.

A workplace insured by a guarantee maturity insurance can substitute the severance pay with the insurance benefits from the guarantee maturity insurance.

Provisions on working hours, rest periods, holidays and leaves, and overtime payment in the Labor Standards Act shall not apply to foreign workers employed in businesses involved in housework, agriculture and fisheries.

2.Protection under the Minimum Wage Act

Foreign workers are eligible to receive at the least the minimum wage stipulated by law.

The current minimum wage : 2,840 won per hour

3.Protection under the Industrial Accident Compensation Insurance Act

A foreign worker who suffers an occupational accident or disease is eligible to receive medical treatment, rest from labor, and compensation.

The industrial Accident Compensation Insurance protects foreign workers from all occupational accidents that occur inside a workplace, regardless of whether to accident was due to the workers fault.

4. Protection under the Wage Claim Guarantee Act

In the event a foreign worker who is out of work , due to such causes as the employers bankruptcy, and has not received wages and severance pay, the worker is eligible to receive wages for the last three months worked, severance pay for the last three years of employment, and unemployment benefits for the past three months from the Korean government.

In order to be prepared for a possible delay in the payment of wages, an employer whose workplace is not covered by the Wage Claim Guarantee Act is required to join a guarantee insurance.

2. Grievance Counseling and Handling

When a foreign worker has work-related problem or has been treated unfairly or unreasonably, he/she may receive grievance counseling and help from the grievance system.

1. Matters related to the Labor Standard Act

In the event a foreign worker has not received wages or severance pay on time;

Has been assaulted by an employer or supervisor; or

Has been forced to work overtime, at nights or on holidays,

He/she may file a petition to the Labor Inspection Division of the competent Regional Labor Office.

2. Matters related to the Industrial Accident Compensation Insurance Act

In the event the workplace safety and health standards are not met at a workplace,

A foreign worker can file a petition to the Industrial Safety Division of the competent Regional Labor Office.

3. Matters related to employment

As regards matters related to change of workplaces or job placements;

Issuance of various documents needed while staying in Korea such as certificate of employment; or

Grievance counseling,

The competent Employment Security Center will provide foreign workers with counseling (please refer to the addresses in the Annex).

4. Language Assistance

In the event counseling or guidance in the native language of the foreign worker is needed; or

Counseling for civil appeals or guide to a grievance system is needed,

The Call Center for Foreign Workers will provide counseling (Tel. 02-872-9797)

[Procedure of reporting and handling delayed payment]

Receiving reports or petitions on delayed payment of wages (Civil Affairs Division) Asking the employer to appear before the office (Labor Inspector) Fact-finding (Labor Inspector) Ordering the employer to pay overdue wages if the fact-finding shows that the employer has delayed payment of wages without justifiable cause (Labor Inspector) Subjecting the employer to related laws in the event he/she still does not pay overdue wages (Prosecutor)

5. Matters related to sojourn

In the event the counseling on matters related to sojourn such as issuance of alien registration, extension of the period of sojourn, or permission for a workplace change is needed; or

In the event a foreign worker has been treated unfairly or is feared to be the target of unfair treatment in entering or leaving Korea or while in Korea,

He/she may receive counseling from the Grievance Counseling Office for Foreigners in the Immigration Office.

6. Matters related to industrial accident compensation

In case a foreign worker needs to apply for industrial accident compensation or apply for medical treatment because of an industrial accident (work-related disease, injury, or death),

He/she may ask for help from the Korea labor Welfare Corporation (Tel: 1588-0075).

7. Matters related to crimes

In the event a foreign worker falls victim to a crime or has been treated unfairly in his/her period of employment,

He/she may seek assistance from the police (Tel: 112)

Standard Medical Tests for the Korean EPS

A. Basic pre-employment medical examinations:

1. Complete physical examination, including visual acuity (left and right eyes)

2. Chest x-ray using plates not smaller than 11 x 14

3. Complete blood count (CBC) including hemoglobin/ hematocrit determination

4. Blood typing



5. Stool examination

6. Psychometric evaluation

7. Urinalysis

8. Dental

B. Additional medical examinations:

1. Liver Function Tests:



2. Total Cholesterol


4. HIV/AIDS Test

5. Hepatitis Antigen (HBs Ag)

6. Audiometry

7. Ishihara Color Vision Test

C. For Females: Pregnancy Test

D. For aged 40: ECG