Undocumented migrants on the rise in South Korea, lawmaker says

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Sept. 23 (UPI) — South Korea has witnessed a steady increase in the number of undocumented foreign nationals in recent years and related crimes are on the rise, according to a Seoul lawmaker.

Yoo Sang-bum of the main opposition People Power Party said Wednesday data from Seoul’s Justice Ministry and National Police Agency indicate the number of immigrants who stay in Korea without authorization jumped 86% from 2016 to 2019, local newspaper Herald Business reported.

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The South Korean government said a total of 390,281 immigrants who overstay their visas or remain illegally were counted in those four years. A total of 16,921 crimes, where undocumented immigrants were suspects, were also reported.

The number of undocumented immigrants from the Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan increased the most in the second half of the previous decade, or 280%. The population of illegal Russian migrants jumped 214%. The Russian population in Korea includes ethnic Russians, Russian minorities, including ethnic Koreans who migrated in the 19th century.

Undocumented immigrants from Thailand rose 174%. Their population is estimated to be 164,393, according to Seoul. A total of 70,536 Chinese nationals and 58,686 Vietnamese are also included in the most recent data, the report says.

South Korea is experiencing a rise in the number of crimes committed by undocumented people, Yoo said. In 2019, a total of 5,168 crimes were reported, up from 3,189 cases in 2015. The South Korean press report did not include categories of the alleged crimes.

Crimes involving undocumented Kazakh nationals jumped 2,441%, followed by Russians at 824% and Thais by 250%.

The data on undocumented immigrants in South Korea are being disclosed at a time when the total number of all foreign nationals is estimated to be about 2.5 million, according to Yonhap on Wednesday.

Results of a government survey of second-generation children of migrants in Korea are to be published in July 2021, according to the report.