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Gov’t closes loophole on child care benefits

June 29,2018
Parents raising their children abroad for more than 90 days cannot receive monthly child care benefits from the government, the Ministry of Health and Welfare said on Monday, and those who did will have to return the money.

In Korea, families with children up to the age of six who do not attend day care centers, kindergartens or receive government-funded at-home day care can get 100,000 to 200,000 won ($90 to $180) a month per child from the government to support their care.

“This benefit is not available for children up to 6 years old who have stayed outside the country for more than 90 days, in line with the Infant Care Act,” the ministry said in a statement on Monday. “The ministry has checked immigration records to ensure no child staying more than 90 days abroad receives the money, but there have been cases that slip through because the child has no immigration record, was born abroad or used a foreign passport to leave Korea.”

The ministry said it would check the immigration records of any child with dual citizenship and requests any parent who unwittingly received the benefit since Sept. 18, 2015, when the law went into effect, to return the money.

“Starting in 2019, we will connect the database on dual citizenship to our welfare system to ensure that child care benefits for anyone with dual citizenship who uses a foreign passport to exit the country ceases to receive the money upon the 90th day of their stay abroad,” the ministry said. “We also ask all parents who have children with dual citizenship to reveal this information when they apply for benefits from the ministry.”

Children who were born abroad but return to Korea before turning 6 are still eligible for the welfare if they obtain Korean citizenship, the ministry said.

Some recipients of the benefit who are living abroad said they were not aware of the law.

“I saw other Koreans in the United States receive it regardless of the length of their children’s stay there,” a 32-year-old man told the JoongAng Ilbo on the condition of anonymity. He and his wife lived in the United States from 2016 to 2017 when they had their first child. The couple received 200,000 won a month from the Welfare Ministry during their stay there.

“The Welfare Ministry will be cooperating with the Ministry of the Interior and Safety, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and relevant bureaus for immigration to ensure the regulation is applied properly,” said Lee Yoon-shin, head of the child welfare planning division of the Welfare Ministry.

BY LEE ESTHER, ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]