Having No Working Visa Does Not Mean You Have No Right Under Korean Civil and Labor Law

Recently a foreigner asked some questions to us regarding Korean employment law issues.  He has a problem in his Visa status here in Korea and the employer refused to pay some amount to him, a matter of quite frequent occurrence here in Korea, which I’m afraid of though.

Basically foreigners have the same rights as Koreans under Korean civil and/or labor law. Even though the employee does not  have a valid working Visa, it does not hinder him or her from executing his or her right under Korean law.

If the company has no justifiable cause to withhold the money earned by the employee, it constitutes a breach of contract and/or an unlawful act.  The employee can file a lawsuit against the company or put a provisional attachment on its assets.

Please note, however, that the company could threaten the employee saying “Unless you keep quiet, I’ll inform the Immigration office of your illegal stays in Korea and make you expelled!” as is often the case with vicious small entrepreneur in Korea.  Practically it is the primary reason that makes many foreigners working without visa hesitate to take legal actions.

If the employee determines to take legal actions against the company, the first step should be hiring a Korean lawyer and sending a formal demanding letter.

We hope this to be of assistance to you.  If you have more questions on Korean labor law and immigration law related issues, please send an email to askkorealaw@gmail.com or visit Legal Consultation page.  Our Korean licensed labor immigration lawyers, not a U.S. lawyer residing in Korea, will answer your inquiry.

Also you can find a stack of competent legal information and articles on Korean labor law, written by a Korean licensed lawyer, by clicking here.

© 2008 Wonil Chung, a Korean Lawyer/Chung & Partners, a Korean Immigration Law Firm.  All rights reserved. Some copyrights, photos, icons, trademarks, trade dress, or other commercial symbols that appear on this post are the property of the respective owners.


  1. If you are a contracted worker with a valid visa, are you allowed the same labor laws as every other working legally working and contracted Korean resident. I was told recently by the manager that I have “no right to ask for anything outside what my contract specifies”. Is this correct or do government hired NSETS also have the right to claim the KOREAN STANDARD ACT LAWS without hassle?

    Confused and upset NSET

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