BOEUN, June 11 (Korea Bizwire) – There’s an unfamiliar face working alongside Korean farmers at Mr. Song’s garlic farm in a peaceful town in Boeun County, North Chungcheong Province. His name is Tran, and he’s a 45-year-old Vietnamese citizen who arrived in Korea last week to help out with Song’s farming operation.
Tran was recommended by his sister, who has been living in a neighboring town for eight years. He’s also part of a new ‘seasonal employee’ project.
The new seasonal employee system is being run as a pilot project promoted by the Korean government. It took off earlier this year as part of government efforts to revitalize the stagnant economy and to acquire the necessary personnel in agricultural industries that require more manpower. The program offers a 90-day work visa to employees from foreign countries.
Tran is currently staying at his sister’s house and works at Song’s garlic plantation with his brother-in-law while being paid a salary of 1.5 million won per month. Although Korea is foreign soil for Tran, farming is not. He himself is a farmer back in his home country.
“I’m a little frustrated when it comes to communicating, but with my sister and brother-in-law around, I have no real difficulties,” said Tran. “I’m planning on using my three-month salary to expand my farm back home.”
Song, among others, was most grateful for Tran’s help.
“I was in desperate need for an extra set of hands because I have to harvest about 13,000 square meters of garlic, then sort and package it,” said Song. “His arrival was like rain after a long draught.”
“There is a language barrier, but he’s such an optimistic man and even enjoys Korean cuisine. Plus, his very skilled and he’s a quick-learner,” he added.
A dozen Vietnamese employees have arrived in this neighborhood recently, all of whom have families living in the same jurisdiction, after Boeun County was selected for the seasonal employee pilot project by the Ministry of Justice.
The farms hosting the seasonal workers were selected after thorough evaluation by the county government. The county also subsidized the cost of hiring the new employees with a 400,000 won subsidy for their plane tickets.
Along with Boeun, Goesan, Danyang, and Yanggu counties were also selected by the ministry to participate in the pilot program.
“We don’t know if the government will continue the seasonal employee system, but farms have been suffering from a lack of manpower. They seem to be hoping that the program will continue,” said a Boeun County official.
By Lina Jang (firstname.lastname@example.org)