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Sunday, May 15, 2005

Seoul's migrant worker crackdown and human rights

Back again...

I was inspired to post something about the situation of migrant workers in Korea a few weeks ago, but events have conspired to prevent me from posting very much at all. Anyway, it may be a bit old, but I'll draw your attention now to this Korea Times piece about violations of human rights by the Immigration Bureau. I'm sure this news won't surprise many of Korea's migrant workers, who have been suffering under the government's crackdown on 'illegals' for over a year now:
The National Human Rights Commission advised the Immigration Bureau correct its enforcement activities after reviewing complaints from migrant workers who complained of poor treatment by immigration officials.

A migrant worker from Uzbekistan had said in the complaint filed in January that an official at the Pusan Immigration Bureau beat him, breaking his ribs, while taking him in handcuffs to the office.

This is particularly interesting in light of the fact that Hankyoreh columnist Pak No-ja recently found himself threatened with a lawsuit by the Immigration Bureau for writing a column entitled "'Anti-Korean Group'? That must be the Immigration Bureau." The reference in the title is to the Korean government's recent attempts to whip up some anti-migrant worker feelings by stoking up fears of terrorism and calling migrant workers who fight back against the crackdown 'anti-Korean'. Obviously the Immigration Bureau is a little bit too touchy to take a jibe like this, and now we know the reason why. Pak No-ja and Hankyoreh have since settled the matter by printing an apology for the 'inappropriate expressions', but quite rightly they have not apologised for the content of the allegations against the Bureau, which have turned out to be true.

Migrant workers in the Seoul-Inch'on area now have their own union, the Equality Trade Union - Migrant Branch, affiliated with the KCTU (I think). Of course, they are receiving some special attention from the government and have had numerous leading members deported. Last week their leader Anwar Hossein was arrested in Seoul.

In some connected news, Marmot reports a recent round-up of illegal workers in Korea, although this time the targets were not the usual Bangladeshis or Nepalis working in the unskilled sector, but rather foreigners of the pink-skinned variety working in jobs such as advertising!


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