Foreign students wait in line to be tested of COVID-19 before being admitted to enter dormitories at a testing booth in Gwangju on Aug. 29. (Gwangju City Buk-gu)
About two-thirds of foreign students who dropped out of school have been staying in Korea without a valid visa, according to a report.
The report released by independent lawmaker Rep. Min Hyung-bae on Wednesday said that 67.2 percent of students who dropped out of school in Korea were staying without a valid visa as of last year, while a total of 10,335 foreign students dropped out of school in 2021.
Min received the data from the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Justice.
More students are staying in Korea illegally after coming to study. The number has been on an increase from 1,419 in 2018 to 2,883 in 2019 and 4,692 in 2020. The number increased nearly fivefold over three.
Of the students, 65.2 percent were from Vietnam, 14.4 percent from Uzbekistan, 7.02 percent from Mongolia and 4.2 percent from China.
More foreign students have been dropping out of school, too. In 2021, 10,335 foreign students left school without finishing their degrees. That number was 9,867 in 2020, 8,596 in 2019 and 5,756 in 2018.
Among universities, Kyung Hee University saw the largest number of foreigners leaving school midway, marking 712, followed by 292 students from Sangmyung University, 244 from Sejong University and 238 from Yongin University. Incheon University topped the list among national universities with 151 students dropping out.
The increase could be in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic and limited flights.
With the virus crisis restricting overseas travel, the number of foreigners illegally staying in Korea has gone up overall.
According to the Korea Immigration Service, 395,068 foreigners were here without legal visa status as of July, which is 19 percent of the country’s total foreign population of over 2 million.
Some fail to leave Korea due to the strict penalty system.
Foreigners who have illegally stayed in Korea have to pay a fine when leaving the country which can go as high as 30 million won ($20,800). If they fail to pay the fine, reentry into Korea is limited for one to 10 years.
By Im Eun-byel (firstname.lastname@example.org)