UDON THANI - Governor Chayawut Jarntorn has instructed provincial employment chief Wanida Jaree to investigate why two Thai women from the northeastern province fled from a group tour in South Korea.
Chayawut also urged the two, who are believed to be hiding somewhere in South Korea, to return to Thailand before their 90-day immigration deadline expires as their tour guide could lose its licence and face a possible ban on visiting South Korea.
The governor's response followed the tour guide's online post, which went viral on social media, that gave details about the two Thai women in an appeal for people to help to locate them.
The governor said an initial inquiry with the parents of one of the women, Yupin Janthasen from Nong Han, found that she had worked at a pharmacy in Muang Udon Thani before she left for South Korea on June 5. Her parents had not been informed that their daughter had gone missing from the tour, he added.
The other woman, Muang Udon Thani resident Chutima Reungpatarawet, resigned from the Protected Forest Area Office Region 10 (Udon Thani) on June 1, and her home was closed and neighbours told officials she had gone to visit a foreign country.
Wanida said officials were worried about what had happened to the women and wanted them to return to Thailand before their visa deadline to avoid being punished under South Korean immigration law.
She also said the province had promoted a government-to-government employment scheme with South Korea, for which applicants must sit a language test to qualify for jobs. Most legal jobs were in agriculture and construction, she said.
Yupaporn Mahahong, 28, Yupin's cousin, said she was worried about Yupin's well-being and did not believe that her relative had intentionally left the tour group to get work in South Korea.
"I tried to reach her by phone but was unsuccessful. It's unlikely she would attempt to work in South Korea illegally since she already has a fine job in Udon Thani while her friend also has a stable job at a government agency. They said they would go to Korea for the holidays."
"Her mother and other relatives are increasingly worried about her whereabouts and well-being, even though her disappearance is now a big story on social media sites suggesting that she had left the group to work illegally. I'm not sure if that's true. I hope she is safe and she will soon contact the family," Yupaporn said.
In addition, she said her cousin had never been to Japan to work as had been suggested in social media but had gone to Laos for a holiday.