Whilst the scramble yesterday at Police Park, to get some application forms were in a media report, an in depth study of the problem has yet to appear. It is a multifaceted one and I will try to give the reader a view of what I see as the issues involved and which some of the young in their desperation for riches don't fully comprehend.
Here are some of the facts as I seem to understand and any corrections and further details from commentators will be appreciated along with experiences of some who have actually gone to Korea and benefited or disadvantaged by the this scheme.
The Govt. of Sri Lanka along with the Korean Govt. have for a number of years, come to some kind of inter govt. agreement on sending young people (men 18 to 39) to Korea on a work visa, as Sri Lankans have been by experience considered to be reliable hard workers, contributing to the industrial growth of Korea, as a result of a labor shortage of Koreans willing to engage in the same types of employment.
The actual number of those who leave every year vary depending on certain needs, however we understand that for next year 10,000 is the number that Korea has agreed to recruit from mainly A level qualified people. We do not know how many in fact will go next year and it could be as low as 5,000. Only time will tell. In order to qualify to go, they have to pass a Korean language test, which about 10% of the applicants manage to pass. Having passed the test is no guarantee of going, as over 2,000 of those who passed the test last year have not yet gone this year, and hope to be part of the 10,000 to go in 2012.
This program has been a boon to the UPFA government to dole out to their local representatives, who then sell their allocation for hundreds of thousands of rupees to supplement their incomes. (A Pradeshiya Sabha member gets a monthly allowance of Rs5,000)This further exemplifies why there is a rush to get elected even at local level, not for the sake of the country but for the sake of the person. In fact a few years ago, one of the men in the village of Ratmale where I have a home, wanted to go to Korea. He was told he had to pay his local Pradeshiya Sabha contact an amount of Rs100,000 to get the application form, and if he passed the test he could go. In fact I was asked to lend some money to him so he could pay this, and I would be repaid with high interest once he got to Korea! I am glad I did not get tempted as I was skeptical, thinking he was being taken for a ride, as he was promised the answers to the test he was to take, which he did not get and he therefore did not pass the exam and did not go and had to sell everything he had to pay this local politician, and in fact 4 years later he has not recovered from that mistake.
This real life example goes to show the desperation of the people for the money that is being dangled. I was told it is a salary of between Rs100K and Rs150K per month, for the contract period of 3 years. I don't know how the board and lodging is covered by this, as living in the West I know that if I were to have to find all this on my own and was to live a half way comfortable life I would spend all this on living and not be able to save any money. I would like someone who has gone to Korea to give me his own account of this aspect.
I understand that the Govt. has decided to give everyone who asks for an application, one in 29 centers around the country. Assume that 40,000 get the forms, then they have to pay a fortune to learn Korean going to classes. I don't know how much that costs. So if 90% fail that investment is gone! If the applications are now not distributed by the politicos, then the jobs are. So of those who pass, they will have to pay the politico who has the allocation, a fee, at least Rs100K to get in under his allocation, once he has passed the exam.
How much do you think the failures spend? How much to do you think those who eventually go have to fork out before leaving? How many do you think get jobs and conditions remotely acceptable to what they were led to believe? All these are answers that I would like to know, so that those who embark on this venture take this risk with their eyes open and not shut!
The tragedy of Sri Lanka is that we do not empower our youth to understand the opportunities available to them in Sri Lanka as it is not mapped out as easily as the carrot and misinformation of the jobs in Korea. There are jobs in Sri Lanka that are more suitable to these people but they have to suffer the indignity of enslavement in a strange country, in order to even hope of saving enough money for their future.
Get a panel of people who have been there done that to meet with the prospective applicants, so the information is disseminated to as wide an audience as possible, warts and all in order to make an objective assessment of the prospects of riches.