Loosen the strict conditions for South Koreans in Malaysia: South Korean ambassador

He stressed that Koreans were fond of Malaysia as it was a good place to do business, to live and to educate their children.

Nelson Benjamin and And Remar Nordin

Nelson Benjamin and And Remar Nordin

The Star


May 23, 2023

SEOUL – Many South Koreans eye Malaysia as a second home but the stricter conditions have made them withdraw such plans and turn away, says South Korean ambassador Yeo Seung-bae (pic).

The government should look into reviewing some of the conditions set for the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme as South Korean applicants have dipped by almost 90% due to strict requirements, says the Korean Embassy.

Yeo said that until February this year, the number of South Koreans holding the MM2H visa was 2,253.

“Koreans are among the top three MM2H applicants after China and Japan. However, when the conditions were made stricter during the Covid-19 pandemic, applications fell drastically,” he said, adding that the embassy did not have the application numbers as it was with Malaysian immigration.

He stressed that Koreans were fond of Malaysia as it was a good place to do business, to live and to educate their children.

Asked about the main issues for the huge drop, Yeo said it was mainly due to the increase in the amount of bank savings from RM350,000 to RM1.5mil, and also, the increase in required annual salary.

He hoped that the authorities in Malaysia would look into this to attract more Koreans to Malaysia under the MM2H programme.

In August 2021, Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar had urged the government to immediately revise the conditions under MM2H, which he said were too restrictive.

The Johor Ruler said the government should reconsider the new requirements as it would dampen foreigners’ interest in coming to Malaysia and force existing MM2H passholders to leave the country.

“This means massive revenue loss for Malaysia. The review was supposed to make things better but the new criteria is only going to drive investors and tourists away,” said His Majesty in a statement posted on his official Facebook page.

Yeo said presently there were about 13,000 to 15,000 Koreans living, working and studying in Malaysia, with about 10% to 15% in Johor alone.

“That is why I have a big interest in Johor to expand and strengthen economic cooperation. That is why we had a business roundtable and cultural performance last week to showcase our culture and opportunities in the state,” he said, adding that 60 Korean businessmen from Malaysia and Singapore took part in the event.

He added that at least four Korean-based government agencies such as the Korean Railway Research Institute, Korean Trade Investment Promotion Agency (Kotra), their environment-related agency, and water and waste management agency, also took part in the one-day programme.

Yeo also said that trade between both countries continued to expand, reaching an all-time high of US$26.7bil (RM121bil) in 2022, which was an increase of 30% compared with the year before.

“We have almost 400 Korean companies operating in various fields in Malaysia, mainly in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, while there are about 30 companies operating in Johor alone,” he added.

On tourism, he added that before the pandemic, some one million people travelled between both countries, comprising 600,000 Koreans and 400,000 Malaysians.

“This year we are expecting 200,000 Korean visitors,” he said, adding that it would take time for the numbers to pick up.

Yeo, who was posted to Malaysia last year, said this was his second visit to the state, as last December, he had an audience with Sultan Ibrahim and Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Onn Hafiz Ghazi.

On investments in Johor, he said 31 Korean companies were operating in the state, mainly in the steel sector, but also now including the chemical and petrochemical sectors.

“We have also expanded to consumer goods and are looking to expand in Johor, especially in other fields,” he said, adding that he was pleased with the state government’s efforts, especially Onn Hafiz’s proactive attitude of being willing to listen and address issues raised by Korean investors.

On whether they plan to open a consulate here, Yeo said that so far, they had no plans as they just opened their first consulate in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, due to the high number of Korean visitors to the state.

He stressed that the Korean Society in Johor was active in providing free Mandarin and Bahasa Malaysia classes for Koreans, and that the embassy would do its best to support them by providing text books and other learning materials.

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