|Seogang Occupational Training College / Screenshot from the Seogang Occupational Training College website|
By Lee Hyo-jin
"I still can't believe that $7,880, which is my parent's salary for two years has vanished into thin air," said Dinurbek Jumaniyozov, a 19-year-old student living in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. In addition to the financial loss, his hopes of studying in Korea to become an IT developer have been dashed.
Jumaniyozov is one of the 52 Uzbek students who over the last few months have been demanding full refunds from Korean universities for the money they spent on visa applications and tuition fees.
It all began in November 2019, when Seogang Occupational Training College, a vocational school based in Seoul, gave a presentation promoting the school at a language center in Tashkent. Dozens of students wanting to study in Korea attended the session, according to its manager.
The college invited them to enroll in its educational courses offering them a D-4-6 type general trainee visa, which is issued to international students who plan to receive training at private academic institutes recognized by the Korean government.
"They promised to get us the visa within two months, saying that they were familiar with the process as they had already invited some students from Vietnam," recalled Jumaniyozov during a phone interview with The Korea Times.
A total of 52 students signed the enrollment agreement, each paying a lump sum of between $3,400 and $8,000 to cover tuition fees and visa applications, adding up to $240,000.
However, they heard nothing from the college for the next six months. After repeated inquiries, the only response they got in May was "the process is being delayed due to COVID-19."
|A letter demanding a refund sent by Dinurbek Jumaniyozov to the head of Seogang Occupational Training College / Courtesy of Dinurbek Jumaniyozov|
"I urgently needed the money back since my father had contracted the coronavirus," said Abdula, who had paid $7,750. "I couldn't wait anymore because of my snowballing loan debt," said Serzod, who had borrowed $4,000 from the bank to pay the tuition fee.
But the college refused saying "According to the agreement, refunds are only available from two months after the determination of visa issuance."
The students were belatedly informed in mid-July that their visa application had been denied, as the government ruled the institution was unqualified to invite them. Only after their second attempt was also rejected Sept. 16, did the school finally agree to pay refunds but failed to offer any exact date.
"They recently said that we can get our money back after we sign an agreement form not to file any reports to the police, which is absurd," said Jumaniyozov, urging the college to take full responsibility.
Seogang College, on the other hand, insisted that it had not violated any rules stated in the agreement with the students and had done its best to get the visa applications approved.
"We are currently working on the refund process, but it will take some time due to the complicated procedures involved in overseas transactions," an official at Seogang College told The Korea Times.
They also claimed that they had not expected the visa applications to be rejected, as the institution fulfilled all the requirements needed to invite international students, such as providing a dormitory, offering 15 hours of classes a week, and receiving tuition fees of over four million won per semester.
"We don't understand exactly on what grounds the Immigration Office has denied our visa application twice," the official said.