South Korea has cut official development assistance (ODA) to Myanmar and will continue to support the efforts of the Bangladesh government and the international community to repatriate Rohingya refugees.
In an exclusive interview with the Dhaka Tribune, ROK Ambassador Lee Jang-keun said, “Korea has ended all new military and police cooperation with Myanmar and has not allowed any export of military equipment to Myanmar. Korea has also drastically reduced ODA to Myanmar.
Ambassador Lee considers the issue of Rohingya refugees not only a humanitarian issue, but also a human rights issue. “Korea is working closely with the international community to resolve this serious international humanitarian and human rights crisis.”
On the humanitarian side, the envoy said, the Korean government has provided assistance to protect the refugees generously hosted by Bangladesh. “We provide around $4-5 million a year to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh through international organizations based in the country.”
On the human rights side, Korea is co-sponsoring the UN resolution on the human rights situation in Myanmar to pressure Myanmar’s leadership to respect the human rights of their own citizens,” Ambassador Lee said, noting, “The Rohingya are victims of human rights abuses by their own government.
“The final resolution of the Rohingya refugee issue requires progress in both the humanitarian and human rights situations. Reconciliation between the Rohingyas, the victims and Myanmar’s military leaders must be made. These are very important conditions for the repatriation of the Rohingyas.
Bangladeshi job quota doubled
Responding to a question about South Korea’s acceptance of more labor from Bangladesh, Ambassador Lee said the Korean government is recruiting low- and medium-skilled foreign workers from 16 selected countries, including Bangladesh. , through a work permit system (EPS).
“So far, more than 45,000 people have gone to Korea as expatriate workers since 1994 under the EPS program. At present, more than 10,000 EPS employees work in Korea, and Korea became the 12th largest country of origin for remittances in fiscal year 2019-2020 with $209 million.
He added: “The annual quota allocated to Bangladesh has averaged around 2,000. But this year, that quota has more than doubled to 4,000. We expect a record number of Bangladeshi workers to be admitted to Korea this year. A total of 3,500 Bangladeshi workers have already been admitted to Korea between January and September 2022.”
He said efforts were underway to increase the number of workers and diversify employment fields, including fishing and agriculture. “Also, sending more female workers is another task that our two governments should be working on. For skilled workers, we don’t have a program to systematically recruit skilled workers, especially at such a scale of EPS workers. However, since the Korean labor market requires competitive foreign labor, skilled workers from Bangladesh might have a better chance of finding employment in Korea.
More Bangladeshi students pursue higher education in Korea
Ambassador Lee said, “Currently, around 1,500 Bangladeshi students are studying in Korea. A majority of them pursue graduate studies in the field of engineering. Most of them study with a partial or full scholarship.
He said Korea is becoming an increasingly popular destination for Bangladeshi students, even though the Covid-19 pandemic has affected many aspiring young Bangladeshis wishing to study in Korea due to visa restrictions. After visa restrictions were lifted in November 2021, more students are heading to Korea.
“The number of student visas issued by my embassy in 2019 just before the Covid-19 pandemic was around 450. From 2022 to now, we have already issued over 800 student visas. The number of Bangladeshi students going to Korea will continue to increase in the coming years.
GKS, Global Korea Scholarship, is the main Korean government scholarship for international students for undergraduate and graduate studies. He said, “Every year, 15 to 20 Bangladeshi students go to Korea under the GKS program. This year, seven Bangladeshi students have been admitted under this program for graduate studies in various Korean universities.
The Hallyu Broadcast – Korean Wave
The spread of K, Hallyu, culture among the youth of Bangladesh opens fertile ground to engage the younger generation in future-oriented Korea-Bangladesh relations. Ambassador Lee said, “Thanks to K-pop, K-drama, K-movie, K-food and K-cosmetics, more and more Bangladeshis are interested in Korea and Korean culture. Korea is becoming a popular college destination for many young Bangladeshis. There is also a growing demand to learn the Korean language.
Even during the pandemic period, K-pop festivals and competitions held both online and offline have attracted much attention and participation from many young people in Bangladesh. Thousands of young Bangladeshis also attended the Korean Film Festival and the Tourism Festival in November last year at the National Museum of Bangladesh, the Korean envoy said.
“In addition to the University of Dhaka, Korean language programs called King Sejong Institute were recently installed at the Independent University of Bangladesh (IUB) and the American International University of Bangladesh (AIUB) this year.”