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Migrant workers hold May Day protest

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Published : 2017-05-03 17:33
Updated : 2017-05-03 17:33

Migrant workers gathered to mark the annual May Day labor demonstrations in front of the Bosingak Bell in central Seoul. But they did so a day early, as most of the workers did not get May 1 off.

“Unfortunately because we are migrant workers, we are not able to participate on May 1 and we have to come out a day earlier,” said Shekh Al Mamun of the Seoul-Gyeonggi-Incheon Migrants’ Trade Union

“Here in Korea, we migrant workers are at the very bottom of the ladder. We are contributing to the economy, and yet as time goes on, our situation and the law that applies to us is getting worse and worse.”

People hold signs calling for better conditions for migrant workers during a May Day demonstration Sunday. (Yonhap)


Mamun highlighted several changes in the law governing migrant workers on E-9 visas, such as the withholding of severance pay until they leave the country, and a recent change in guidelines on how much employers can charge them for accommodation.

“Because they think we are not humans, but machines, they are also introducing a system of short-term working period for workers to come and work for three months and then go back to their country,” he added. “They are not thinking at all. What happens if we don’t get our wages? What happens if we are kicked out after three months? How are we supposed to deal with that situation?”

Carlo Oliver of Filipino migrant workers group Kasammoko also complained about the treatment of migrant workers and said conditions were especially bad for those who did not have legal work visas.

“At the bottom of the many layers of exploitation, we see that the undocumented migrant workers are exploited twice over,” he said.

“Incessant are the threat of crackdowns. They are treated like criminals, never mind their combined efforts to contribute to the Korean economy. Never mind that among the workforce of Korean society they are the ones willing to do the 3-D (dirty, dangerous and difficult) jobs.”

MTU publicity head Madhusudan Ohja reiterated the issue of the new accommodation rules, saying workers like him had to pay too much for what was substandard provision.

“They don’t provide proper quarters, just a (shipping) container without even a bathroom, and we have to struggle to pay hundreds of thousands of won to live in it,” he said.

By Paul Kerry (paulkerry@heraldcorp.com)