SEOUL, Sept. 14 (Korea Bizwire) — Foreign residents’ failure to leave South Korea because of their unpaid fines is expected to disappear starting later this year, government officials said Friday.
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea said the Ministry of Justice has recently accepted its recommendation to terminate the current practice of blocking international departures of foreign stayers here who have any unpaid fine.
In the recommendation, the commission said it argued that the exit ban on foreign fine defaulters, and even their children, has no legal ground. In response, the justice ministry plans to take measures before the end of this year to allow foreign residents to leave the country regardless of unpaid fines, commission officials said.
Under the Immigration Control Law, foreigners, who are under criminal trials, have unfinished prison sentences and have yet to pay fines and forfeit above a certain amount, are now banned from leaving the country.
But the human rights watchdog has recommended that the practice of banning international departures of foreigners on the grounds of any unpaid fine be overhauled.
In one instance, three foreign children, ages 7, 3 and 1, who were unregistered after being born in South Korea, were barred from leaving the country together with their maternal grandmother in December last year.
“If a foreigner under the age of 17 does not apply for a stay in South Korea, the guardian must apply for it. Violators are fined. If the fines are not paid, the foreign child and guardian are slapped with an exit ban,” a commission official said, explaining the reason for its recommendation to the justice ministry.
“Fines are a punishment to maintain administrative order. Failure to pay fines should not be included in the reasons for an exit ban for foreigners,” the official said.
In this regard, the justice ministry said it will consider alternative measures to induce foreigners to pay their unpaid fines, including imposing penalties at the time of their re-entry.