Korean government allows restaurants to hire foreign workers

Starting in 2024, restaurants and hotels will be allowed to hire foreigners under the Work Permit System.
January 11, 2024
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As early as April 2024, restaurants and lodging establishments in South Korea will be able to hire foreign workers with non-specialty work (E-9) visas through the work permit system. The Ministry of Employment and Labor of the Republic of Korea held the Foreign Workforce Policy Committee on December 1, 2023, and January 5, 2024, and approved the following policies for allowing foreign workers to be hired in the food and lodging industry in 2024.

The non-specialty work visa (E-9) previously allowed foreign workers to be hired in the following industries:

manufacturing, construction (construction sites), agriculture and livestock (crop farming, livestock raising, and related services), fishing (coastal fishing, aquaculture, and salt extraction), and some service industries (construction waste disposal, refrigerated and frozen warehousing, collection and sale of recyclable materials, and publishing (books and music)).

Starting in 2024, restaurants and hotels will be allowed to hire foreigners under the Work Permit System. The details are as follows:

Work permit system allowed for restaurants

The new Work Permit System for Restaurants introduces non-specialized employment (E-9) for kitchen assistants in Korean restaurants with a certain amount of work experience in major regions.

  • This pilot program will be introduced in 100 major regions for businesses classified under the ‘Restaurant business
    (561)’ and ‘Korean food restaurant business (5611)’ in the Korean Standard Industrial Classification subdivision.
  • For companies with 5 or more domestic insureds, they must have been in business for at least 5 years.
  • For companies with less than 5 insured Koreans, they must have been in business for at least 7 years.
  • The occupation is listed as ‘Kitchen assistant (95220)’ according to the Korean Standard Occupational Classification.

Work permit system allowed for hotels

New non-specialty work permit (E-9) for cleaners and kitchen assistants directly employed by hotels and condominiums in Seoul, Busan, Gangwon and Jeju.

  • This pilot program will be introduced in major tourist areas such as Seoul, Busan, Gangwon, and Jeju.
  • Companies in the hotel, recreational condominium management, and hostel industries that directly hire cleaners and their suppliers, such as general building cleaning businesses, are required to have an exclusive 1:1 contract with hotel and condominium companies.
  • These companies fall under the categories of ‘Hotel business (55101),’ ‘Recreational condominium operation business (55103),’ ‘Hostel business,’ and ‘Building general cleaning business (74211)’ in the Korean Standard Industrial Classification.
  • According to the Korean Standardized Occupational Classification, the job titles are ‘Building cleaner (94111)’ and ‘Kitchen assistant (95220)’. However, these titles only apply to those who work in restaurants that are directly operated within hotels and condominiums.

The food and hospitality industry has been facing a shortage of workers, and now it is possible to hire foreign workers with a non-specialty work visa (E-9) under the employment permit system.


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