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Delayed dreams for Korea-bound Nepalis

Nepali Times, Nepal, 30 March 2021 - From his early years, Bhim Oli from Dang knew that he wanted to go abroad to work and earn so that he could support his family. His dream, like that of many Nepali men, was to work hard and make a comfortable living for his family.

On the top of that list for overseas job destinations was Korea. But the preparation costs for South Korea’s Employment Permit Scheme (EPS), language training, food and lodging expenses in Kathmandu were exorbitant.

For the majority of Nepali migrant workers, the Gulf and Malaysia are final destination countries. But for Oli, Qatar was a means to an end. He took up a stint in Qatar as a waiter after completing his Bachelor’s, with a singular purpose of saving up enough so he could return and focus on his preparations for Korean language tests.

The now-familiar acronym EPS usually conjures up images of tens of thousands of Nepalis lining up to register for the mandatory Korean language tests. Since 2008, over 66,000 Nepalis have obtained jobs in South Korea through this program in the agriculture and manufacturing sectors.

The exam itself has been taken by a staggering 585,000 Nepalis, but less than one-tenth of the test-takers eventually get a job in Korea.

After toiling for 18 months in Qatar as a ‘target earner’, Oli returned to Nepal with savings of Rs650,000 to begin his preparation for the Korean EPS. In 2017, he failed his exam. Undeterred, he studied harder for the next one and was one of the 7,996 who passed it, out of 82,264 test-takers in 2018.

“I cannot afford to go to the US. The only option for people like us to try to go to the US is via irregular channels, which costs over 40 lakhs (Rs4 million). Savings in the Middle East or Malaysia are nominal, so I was eyeing Japan and Korea as the best alternatives,” he explains. “In Korea, I can expect to earn one crore (Rs 10 million) in 4 years 10 months, an amount that would be impossible elsewhere.”



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