Migrant festival raises profile of foreign workers

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Migrant festival raises profile of foreign workers

To show support for a growing number of foreign workers in Korea, the government is organizing a festival for migrant workers in central Seoul tomorrow.
The festival, called “Migrants Arirang,” intends to acknowledge the presence of thousands of migrant workers who are increasingly taking on blue-collar jobs in the manufacturing industry.
Workers from 12 different countries will be represented in the event: Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Iran, Vietnam, Myanmar, Mongolia, Bangladeshi, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Cambodia.
The full-day event includes exhibitions of photographs of migrant workers by well-known Korean photographers, displays of cultural materials and foods, a flea market, Korean song singing contests (Arirang Contest), a real Nepalese-style wedding, a parade, concert and the Changing of the Guard Ceremony in front of Deoksu Palace.
The photo exhibit by Korean photographers is titled “Coexistence” and another by migrants workers is named “Mobile Photoshop.”
The wedding ceremony between a Nepalese man and Korean woman will incorporate elements of both cultures and traditions, but will be conducted in a traditional Nepalese way.
The Arirang Concert will feature popular Korean singers as well as four artists and groups: singer Chandana Liyanarachchi from Sri Lanka; singer Aung Yin and drummer Maung Kyaw Zay Ya from Myanmar; drummers Sanu Raja Maharjan and Tri Ratna Manandhar from Nepal and Ca Si and Khanh Ngoc from Vietnam, and the migrant workers’ band Stop Crackdown.
The migrant workers festival is not a one-time event and will continue throughout the year in 14 different locations nationwide.

by Limb Jae-un

The event will be held in the grassy circle in front of City Hall from 10 a.m through 9 p.m. For more information, visit migrantsarirang.com

Through rock music, group tries to change policy and perceptions

A performance by a group of rock musicians at the “Migrants Arirang” festival before thousands of migrant workers and Seoul citizens tomorrow will be a unique celebration of Korea’s changing work force and the country’s demographics.
Stop Crackdown has not only become more popular among migrant workers who identify with the band’s cause for human rights for migrant workers, but has also gained bigger acceptance among Korean fans, who wrote words of encouragement on its Web site (stopcrackdown.com). The rock band is scheduled to perform at the festival, but there is one thing that puts their appearance in doubt. All five members are staying illegally and are subject to deportation.
The band was formed in December 2003 when they were protesting against the police crackdown on illegal migrant workers in the Anglican Church near Deoksu Palace.
"We protest in hopes that the government will come up with different policies toward migrant workers," said Minod Moktan from Nepal. Vocalist Minod has been living and working for different factories in Korea for more than 10 years and can speak fluent Korean. Other members are Soe Moe Thu, Soe Thi Ha and Ko Nay from Myanmar and Harry Ken Achmad from Indonesia.
Some of the members have played music in independent bands, and won awards in local contests before the band was formed. Bassist Soe Moe Thu was in a the group Eureka and even produced an album. Minod won a KBS singing contest for foreigners in 1999.
Just eight days after they formed, they recorded nine songs for an album. A studio gave them free recording time. “Our friends have taken their own lives after the deportation began,” Minod said. “These things become history, and many migrant workers return to their country with grievances.”
Though the length of time they have spent in Korea varies, all members worked in factories, moving from one to another. The only time they can practice is Sunday.
The band has become famous and performed many times around the country, including for the 20th anniversary of the publication of the poetry book “Dawn of Labor” by activist-poet Park No-hae last year.
Through music, they want to make the public aware of the unfairness of the crackdown and deportation. They even posted their performance schedule on their Web site.
The public response has been positive, he said. “Some said it changed their perception on migrant workers or even said, ‘Migrant workers are human beings like us,’” Soe Moe Thu said.
According to Minod, police are checking door-to-door in neighborhoods with a high concentration of migrant workers as part of a crackdown.
“The ministry invited us, and we are very anxious and don’t know whether to perform or not,” Minod said jokingly. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism has reportedly asked Immigration Bureau to lay off the crackdown tomorrow for fear of scaring away migrant workers.
“We don't want much,” Soe Moe Thu said. “We just hope that migrant workers and Koreans become closer to each other.”
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