[LETTERS TO THE EDITOR]Respect foreign workersA few days ago, I watched a documentary on SBS titled “Is Korea a Heaven to Them?” that dealt with the problems foreign workers face in Korea. It was about how Koreans treat foreign workers, mostly from Southeast Asia.
These workers usually come to Korea expecting to earn money quickly, because the minimum wage in Korea is about 10 times higher than what they can expect in their countries. But it is very hard for them to get permission to work in Korea, so many of them try to enter Korea illegally.
This is why the immigration office keeps an eye on industrial areas and arrests illegal foreign workers. But although such inspections are done in the name of justice, the current process gives me the impression that it is being done in a cruel and unfair way. According to the program, inspectors visit factories without notice and arrest foreign workers without giving them any reason.
In the program, the interviewer asked one inspector if they could treat the workers a little more nicely, but the reply was that there was no reason to respect the rights of foreign workers. Besides this kind of ill-treatment, foreign workers often face other kinds of discrimination. Their working hours and wages could be examples. Most factories are likely to give more work to foreign workers than to Korean workers, but the foreign workers’ wages are much lower.
To prevent those kinds of discrimination, managers and inspectors should attend lectures or seminars on foreign workers’ rights. Company owners could sponsor internship training programs in which managers and inspectors take foreign workers’ places for a couple of weeks. Through such programs, managers and inspectors could become aware of not only the problems foreign workers face, but also the fact that they are no different from Korean workers.
In addition, each factory should establish rules for managers and inspectors requiring equal treatment. Such rules should encourage improvement in how the inspectors carry out their duties, so that foreign workers will be cooperative and not feel reluctant to participate in the inspection process. It’s sad to think that Koreans have become racist in some ways.
Most Koreans, including managers and inspectors who mostly deal with foreign workers, treat Westerners and Europeans better than people with darker skin from poorer countries. However, because all human beings are of the same value, no matter how rich their countries are, they all have the right to be treated appropriately as human beings, regardless of their situation.
From now on, to make Korea more hospitable to every single foreign worker, we should try to end our prejudice against workers from poorer countries and show them more respect.
by Han Young-joo