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[Herald Interview] Philippines prepared to send more workers under improved working conditions: Philippine politician

Philippine congress member describes S. Korea as a 'greener pasture' poised to attract more Filipino workers in near future

June 13, 2024 - 18:13 By No Kyung-min
Rep. Marissa Magsino of the Philippine House of Representatives (Marissa Magsino)

A Philippine politician who represents and advocates for overseas Filipino workers sees South Korea as a rising destination for Filipinos seeking overseas employment, with its higher living standards and pay, along with its attractive culture, being major draws.

In an interview with The Korea Herald, Rep. Marissa Magsino of the Philippine House of Representatives said that preparations to send 100 Filipina caregivers to Seoul in a pilot program are "sailing smoothly," with the Korean side promising to guarantee the same labor protections as it does for Korean national workers.

"We are happy that the Philippine government is prepared to send more workers to Korea under these improved working conditions," said Rep. Magsino in Seoul on Wednesday.

Despite Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon's initial argument that foreign domestic workers should be introduced to assist Korean working parents with child care and housework for just 1 million won ($727) a month, the Filipina workers participating in the city's pilot program will be paid South Korea’s legal minimum wage of 9,860 won per hour, or 2.06 million won if they work 40 hours per week.

The 100 Filipina workers selected through a strict screening process -- including passing a Korean language test and English interview as well as having no evidence of mental illness, drug addiction or criminal record -- are set to arrive in September for six months on E-9 visas.

The pilot project is organized under an existing agreement among Korea's Ministry of Employment and Labor, the Seoul Metropolitan Government and Philippines' Department of Migrant Workers.

Rep. Marissa Magsino of the Philippine House of Representatives poses for a photo with Korean students during a K-Respect Campaign event held in Seoul on Tuesday. (Marissa Magsino)

Rep. Magsino is the sole member of the Philippine lower house elected on the ticket of One Filipinos Worldwide or OFW Party List, a party dedicated to representing the over 2 million Filipinos working overseas. She has taken personal interest in Seoul's caregiver pilot program, having paid a visit here last year to discuss the matter with a Korean lawmaker.

She said Korea’s tourist appeal, exciting shopping opportunities and rich culture exemplified by K-dramas and K-pop will increase the country’s attractiveness among Filipinos as a place to live and work, aside from economic reasons.

“With these advantages in place, I believe more Filipinos would be drawn to work here,” she said.

Yet, the politician expressed lingering concerns: "Many (Filipino) workers remain vulnerable to verbal and physical abuse, with some even falling victim to human trafficking and illegal recruitment.”

As someone interested in protecting the human rights of not just Filipino workers but all people, Magsino has been an ardent supporter of the K-Respect Campaign, which aims to foster understanding and respect for people of different cultures and backgrounds in Korea and beyond.

The campaign was launched by the Sunfull Foundation, a Seoul-based non-governmental organization dedicated to countering cyberbullying, hate speech and human rights violations with positivity, encouragement and respect.

Magsino, serving as the foundation’s ambassador in the Philippines, is leading fellow members of the Philippine House of Representatives to expand the movement.

Rep. Marissa Magsino of the Philippine House of Representatives (third from left in the first row) poses for a photo with members of the Sunfull Foundation in Seoul on Tuesday. (Marissa Magsino)