Over ten thousand Nepali youths seeking employment in Korea stuck in limbo
KATHMANDU: The slogan ‘Indra Gautam should resign, EPS Quota should be cancelled (Indra Gautam rajinama de, EPS quota khaarej gar)’ is being chanted in front of the main door of the EPS Korea branch office at Gwarko, Lalitpur.
Mangalbazar Police Inspectors outside the gate area are ready to take control of demonstrators. A team of about 100 youths is protesting, but some people are entering the main door as representatives and arguing with Indra Gautam, the Director of EPS Korea branch. Director Gautam has been replying that he is doing what he can from his level and only the governments of the two countries can do the rest.
A loud voice is heard, “Indra Sir, we have gone mad. Some friends are suffering from mental problems. Our situation is also going to be like that soon. You have to create an environment to send us to Korea, otherwise you have to resign.”
Mahesh Pandey, 21, of Sainamaina Municipality-6, Rupandehi, is making these loud and aggressive requests. Pandey, who passed Class 12 from the Faculty of Science, appeared for the EPS Korean language test last year. He also passed the skill test. He has already spent up to Rs 1 lakh to go to Korea, including the language test.
Pandey, who was selected to work in a manufacturing company, spent an additional Rs 56,000 while preparing to fly to South Korea. “But the government did not send thousands of young people like me after passing the language and skill test under the pretext of COVID-19.” He said, angrily.
Pandey, who has been living in Butwal, has visited Kathmandu five times to ask the government when the process of sending him to South Korea will begin. But since he had to return empty-handed whenever he came, he says, “I will not go just like that now. If I go to Kathmandu, it will only be to go to Korea. Otherwise, I will return and never go to Korea.”
Mina Gurung, 24, of Sankhuwasabha Bhotkhola Village Municipality-4 is standing a little away from the crowd. She has also passed 12th class in the education faculty.
Mina, who came to Kathmandu for the first time two years ago, applied to participate in the Korean language test in April 2020. The language test was held in June 2020, two months after the application was submitted.
After passing the exam in June, she also passed the skill test in July. Mina became capable of moving to South Korea to work in agriculture. “At that time, I was so happy. I have never been so happy in my life,” she said.
On being successful there, she applied for a job on February 3. The petition was accepted within 10 days. However, the petition was yet to be issued and within two months, the COVID pandemic hit.
She says that she has spent more than Rs 200,000 so far. So much time has passed. The request of some of her friends have already been canceled. She is scared. What is going to happen?
Bhim Ghimire of Gokulganga Gaonpalika-4 of Ramechhap has passed 12th Grade in the Faculty of Management. However, his journey to Korea has not been managed yet.
Ghimire, who passed the EPS language test in 2018, was supposed to be in Korea by 2020. With the issuance of the visa, his estimated flight date was last April. But it has been 10 months since that date. He will have to fly by March 13, 2021, but it is not yet known when he will be able to do so.
He is less worried about not being able to go to Korea, but more about the government conducting exams in 2021. He says, “From a new language test, new people pass. Once they pass, the government may insist on sending them, and we stop here. We are at a loss because we won’t be able to go and will be stuck here.”
Mahesh Pandey, Mina Gurung and Bhim Ghimire are not the only ones protesting in front of the EPS branch, they are accompanied by hundreds of protesters. There are thousands of people living in anxiety and confusion at home.
Employment to Korea has also come to a standstill after the government halted foreign employment on March 26, 2008 for fear of spreading the Covid-19 infection in Nepal.
Although some countries are open to transportation for employment, this is not the case with Korea. The annual EPS language test could not be conducted in the year 2020, i.e. last year 2076. Even those who passed in 2019 could not go.
According to the EPS Korea branch under the Department of Foreign Employment, 1,027 Nepalis, including 958 men and 69 women, left Nepal for Korea in 2020, but they had gone before the coronavirus had spread.
“Although the government is taking initiative to send people who have passed the EPS language and skill test, this is a matter between the governments of the two countries”, said Indra Gautam, Director of the EPS Korea branch. According to him, the Government of Nepal is taking high-level initiatives.
An agreement was reached between the Government of Nepal and the Government of Korea in 2007 to send Nepalese workers to Korea every year. In the first year, in 2008, 31,525 people applied to take the Korean language test and took part in all the tests.
Out of those that passed, 6,404 were males and 380 were females. In 2008, 2,733 men and 81 women, a total of 2,814 flew to Korea.
In the second year, in 2009, the language test could not be conducted. Even though there were no exams that year, 1,847 men and 64 women who passed the previous year reached Korea.
After that language test was held in 2010 and 2011 but language test was not held in 2012. For the next seven years, regular language exams were held and Nepali youths also flew to Korea regularly.
According to the EPS branch, 589,618 people have applied for the language test in the last 13 years, but only 448,771 have participated in the test. Out of this, 69,760 males and 7,617 males have passed; only 13 percent, or 77,377.
Of those who passed, 98 percent or 75,982 have filled the application form for jobs. Out of that, 62,852 men and 4,020 women and 88 percent or 66,872 Nepali youth have reached Korea by 2076 (2019).