In a significant move, Korea has opened up the construction and fisheries sectors for the first time to Bangladeshi job seekers, Korean Ambassador to Bangladesh, Park Young-sik, announced on Tuesday. It will begin accepting applications for the 11th EPS General Korean Language Test for workers wishing to be hired in South Korea on a first-come, first-served basis starting tomorrow, he said. He said fishing and construction have been added to the existing manufacturing and shipbuilding industries.

The country will recruit 7,500 people in manufacturing, 304 in shipbuilding, 1,877 in fisheries and 1,095 in construction sectors in 2024. The BOESL will be announcing the draw for the test and the application process.

The 30,000 people who want to take the Korean Language Proficiency Test from 11 March to the end of May should register between 20 February and early March, according to a press release. When applying for the 11th EPS TOPIK, each applicant can only apply for one of the four sectors. Furthermore, test takers are not permitted to apply for the 12th EPS TOPIK, it said. Since the EPS programme, a system for hiring non-specialized overseas workers, began in 2008, the highest number of workers sent to Korea was 5,891 in 2022 and 4,804 in 2023. Korea plans to recruit 165,000 non-skilled foreign workers from 16 countries through the Employment Permit System (EPS) programme.

Under the EPS, the country is now hiring non-specialized overseas workers from 16 countries, including Bangladesh, to enter Korea only after they have been evaluated for suitability through Korean language tests and skill level assessments. Recently, Tajikistan was confirmed as the 17th sending country.

In 2024, the estimated number of workers sent to South Korea is around 5,000, which is expected to generate an additional $100 million in foreign exchange annually based on the South Korean minimum wage of KRW 2,060,000 per person. For more Bangladeshi workers to be selected by Korean employers through the EPS, they need to be proficient in speaking Korean fluently and demonstrate loyalty to their initial employers.

As the preference for Bangladeshi workers grows, they will contribute significantly more to remittances and Bangladesh’s foreign currency earnings. Ambassador Park Young-sik congratulated the Minister of Expatriates’ and Overseas Employment of Bangladesh and the Managing Director of BOESL on the addition of fishing and construction to this year’s Korean language test, saying that BOESL has been actively and creatively working on EPS with HRD Korea, which is seen as a reward for the continuous sending of workers to Korea. In 2011, Korea was awarded the UN Public Service Award (PSA) for protecting foreign workers in Korea from discrimination, including pay, equal application of labor laws, and access to four types of social insurance.

The HRD Korea-EPS Center at the Korean Embassy in Dhaka, in cooperation with BOESL, is conducting an insurance claim locator activity for the approximately 400 returnees who have returned to Bangladesh without receiving the above-mentioned social insurance, such as the Expiry Insurance (Severance Pay Insurance) and the Return Flight Insurance.

This event was held to promote resettlement support for returning workers in Bangladesh. Through the creation of a community, it is expected that the ability and experience of returning workers in Korea can be transmitted to prospective workers, as well as a medium of communication to share ideas for a successful settlement in Bangladesh, such as starting a venture business. Park Young-sik, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Bangladesh, expressed that Korea has also dispatched miners and nurses to Germany in the past and dispatched construction workers to the Middle East.

“It provides an important source of investment for national projects and as a result, Korea was able to become a prosperous country.” He added that the remittance by Bangladesh workers plays a significant role in the economy. To dispatch more workers to Korea in the future, a close look at the good example of Nepal. Nepalese workers settle down in Korean society very well and work faithfully, so they have a very good reputation among employers. After returning home, overseas returning workers’ meetings are very active, said the Ambassador.

The ambassador said Bangladesh also expects an overall industrial revival to be prepared by honing workers’ high-tech skills, and sincere working attitudes, and revitalizing the returning workers’ community. At the inaugural ceremony, they discussed the obligations and rights of the returning workers’ community members and decided to form eight local communities, including Dhaka, to meet at least once a year.