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Justice minister proposes opening new immigration agency

President Yoon Suk Yeol on Jan. 26 receives new year's reports from the Ministry of Justice, Fair Trade Commission and Ministry of Government Legislation at Yeongbingwan, the guesthouse at the former presidential compound of Cheong Wa Dae. (Office of the President)

"We will devise policy toward entering and leaving the country and immigration as a farsighted national policy."

Minister of Justice Han Dong Hoon on Jan. 26 said this at the beginning of his report on the policy to President Yoon Suk Yeol at Yeongbingwan, the guesthouse at the former presidential compound of Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul.

With the number of foreign residents of Korea to exceed 2.2 million this year and an estimated 410,000 non-citizens illegally living in the country as of last year, the handling of issues in entering and leaving the country and immigration policy are separated by government departments depending on case.

Amid persisting overlapping and separation of immigration policy, Minister Han announced a plan to open the tentatively named Korea Immigration Agency to act as a control tower.

"Through this, we will quickly devise a unified policy at the pan-government level and set the foundation for social integration that the people can empathize with," he said. "Furthermore, we will continue to promote policy toward visas and nationality that contribute to economic growth."

To flexibly recruit skilled foreign workers, the Ministry of Justice is pushing to adopt a pre-announcement system for the annual volume of work visas and a highly skilled visa track for attracting from abroad talented technical personnel, foreign students in Korea and other outstanding human resources.

Another program will recruit science and technology talent from overseas through fast-track programs for obtaining permanent residency and naturalization.

For the convenience of foreign tourists who qualify for visa-free entry to Korea, the ministry will offer information on the Korea Electronic Travel Authorization in seven languages, up from two, and reduce the fee.

By Min Yea-Ji