I've heard this a few times through rumor, and now through mistranslation that is no better than mere rumor, since it's "news" that will confuse, instead of disseminate the proper information.
There's been talk that "they" are getting rid of the F-4 visa altogether, which doesn't make any actual sense. Were that to be the case, entire sectors of industry would be affected (God, what would happen to half of Gangnam and the Korean Americans working there?!), and the recent extension of the F-4 to three, rather than the previous two years, doesn't make any sense. Liberalization in the face of internal momentum towards a tightening? Doesn't make sense.
This is about the ethnic Korean Chinese and kyopos from Russia and former Soviet Republics. It always has been. Before, when I first got my F-4, it was nearly impossible for anyone of Korean descent not from North America or Western Europe to get an F-4. Since then, it's been liberalizing, to the point that several people I know from Russia and Kazhakstan have been getting them, much to my surprise. Of course, I thought that was great news, and a sign towards going in the direction of more open-minded and just visa policy.
Now, it has been made very clear that Korea has decided to tighten up things for the many ethnic Koreans from these areas who are entering the general working-class job market here in Korea. And yes, it is true that I have seen a lot more Korean-Russians and Korean-Chinese working in service and other blue-collar jobs here -- legally. I guess this is creating actual labor competition, which some sectors in society are complaining about.
However, this is different from the situation for the English-speaking kyopos who enjoy what are now 3-year, automatic renewal of F-4's. And it always has been this way.
The Korea Times article would be accurate, and make complete sense if it had translated the group affected properly. Here, as reported in the Kyunghyang Shinmun, the term in question is "중국동포," which most certainly does not translate into what the Korea Times is seeming to refer to as (all) "ethnic Koreans."
To make it clearer, here is what the Kyunghyang Shinmun quoted immigration as having said: “방문취업제로 국내에 들어와 일하는 중국 동포에게 재외동포 비자(F4)를 내주는 기준이 다음달부터 강화된다."
That would translate as: "From next month, requirements (strict translation: 'standards') for the overseas ethnic Korean visa will be strengthened for Chinese ethnic Koreans who came into Korea to work through the guest worker program."
This actually affects only a small subset of even those Chinese/Russian kyopos, since it only affects the process of those who came in under the "visiting worker system" and want to convert over to the F-4.
Not quite a cause for alarm, if the information in the Korean article is correct, which I have no reason to doubt. It's just that the Korea Times article not only doesn't translate their quotes well, it's misexplaining the situation by some poor and vague English copy.
But the word is out, and the "news" has been added to the rumor mill. Please direct people to the proper information -- this is a tweaking of visa change regulation for a subset of a subset of a group of "ethnic Koreans" who came in under a specific jobs program and are wanting to change into one particular kind of visa.
That's it. But that won't be what the rumor mill spits out, I'm sure.
Well, I've done my part. (HT to Albert!)