Korean Society facing ERA complaint over alleged work visa rort

The Korean Society of Auckland is facing an internal allegation that it fraudulently obtained a work visa for a member so she could access free education for her daughter.

Society vice-president Mijin Kim confirmed the Employment Relations Authority was investigating, and a decision from the authority was expected within the next week or two.

“We are awaiting the ERA decision before deciding what we will do next,” Kim said.

“The matter happened under a previous president, so we are in no position to comment.”

In documents sighted by the Herald, it was alleged that a Korean Society member was offered a non-existent “database system administrator” job in 2018 to help her get a work visa.

She was offered a monthly salary of $3640 which was “designed to match the minimum pay required for the work visa application”, as translated from the documents which was written in Korean.

The member managed to obtain a three-year work visa through to January 29, 2022, with the job offer.

The document, whch was confirmed to be accurate by Korean Society officials, alleged the member was helped to get the visa so she could get free education for her daughter in New Zealand.

A dependent child of people holding work visas lasting two years or longer are treated as a domestic student, meaning they don’t have to pay tuition fees to attend primary or secondary school.

In February last year, the member’s employment was terminated by the society and the then president Kyung Sook Wilson called for a formal investigation on the matter.

Current society president Joseph Cho, who started his term on July 1, said because the matter remains unresolved there had not yet been a full handover from the previous leadership.

Cho is also distancing himself and the society from K-festival, an event celebrating Korean culture, food and music which was held at the Trust Arena in Henderson at the weekend.

The festival was initially promoted as a “modernised Korean Day” event, and was targeting a younger audience with more K-pop, beauty, art and modern Korean food on the programme.

Originally planned for early last year, K-festival had to be postponed three times because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cho said the society and K-festival organisers had parted ways and did not attend the event.

Festival director Gio Jin said even without the Korean Society’s involvement, the festival had a lot of support from the Korean community.

More than 35,000 ethnic Koreans live in New Zealand according to the 2018 Census.

This is not the first time the society is embroiled in controversy with New Zealand authorities.

In 2015, the Department of Internal Affairs found the society, which is registered as a charity, to have secretly filtered donations of more than $100,000 from the Korean Development Bank to golfing superstar Lydia Ko.

The society president at the time agreed to let the Korean government bank use the society’s bank account to transfer money to Ko’s parents after it wanted to assist Ko but feared being criticised for supporting a non-Korean citizen.

The society was issued a formal warning notice for what the department said constituted a serious wrongdoing.

An Internal Affairs-Charities Services investigation deemed these activities were against the society’s charitable purpose and was a rules breach.

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