(Yicai Global) Feb. 3 -- South Korea's denial of Chinese Confucius Institute teacher visas stems solely from routine visa and immigration administrative considerations and lacks any sinister implications, said a spokesperson for South Korea's justice ministry in reply to an Yicai Global inquiry.
"The immigration office of the Ministry of Justice discovered between August and October 2016 that some Chinese teachers the Confucius Institute hired at several higher education institutions signed work contracts with their Chinese employers, obtaining most of their salaries from China, and only receiving KRW400,000-500,000 from their Korean schools, thus constituting a violation of the Visa Issuance and Immigration Standards for Foreign Language Instructors that prescribe a 'direct employment relationship and a monthly salary of over KRW1.5 million,' hence the restrictions imposed."
Justice officials visited the education office of the Chinese embassy in South Korea and Confucius Institutes to discuss the matter. At present, the spokesman notes, if Korean universities cannot pay salaries above the minimum requirement to Chinese teachers, the latter must apply for D-1 (non-profit artist) visas before they may enter the country. If the teachers can guarantee direct payment of salaries above the minimum requirement from March 2017 on, the Ministry of Justice will issue one-year E-2 visas to them.
Per the South Korean Emigration and Immigration Administration Law, E-2 visas are mainly for foreign-language instructors working in South Korea, and most Chinese teachers enter the country on them.
In late 2016, the justice ministry's immigration office refused to issue or extend the one-year E-2 visas for some Chinese Confucius Institute teachers working at South Korean institutions of higher education, Yonhap News Agency reported on Feb. 1, and this has caused difficulties in some South Korea universities offering such courses. Major South Korean universities and the Confucius Institute are now discussing follow-up arrangements with the Chinese side.
Confucius Institutes face mounting difficulties in South Korea that reflect tensions between Beijing and Seoul over the planned deployment on South Korean soil of the US THAAD anti-missile defense system, which has prompted China to ban Korean cosmetic imports and K-pop stars from performing in the country.