Foreign workers unite, at least on the air

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Foreign workers unite, at least on the air

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Nguyen Chau began her half-hour show last week with a list of medical clinics in Korea where migrant workers can be treated for free.
As host of a Vietnamese-language Internet radio news program catering to migrant workers, Ms. Chau’s duties include everything from writing scripts to selecting music to speaking on-air.
“I know a lot of Vietnamese in Korea who have had a hard time adjusting here,” she says. “I would like to give them emotional support through the program.”
Migrant’s Net, which officially began earlier this month after months of trials, is an ambitious network for migrant workers in Korea. Based in the Hongdae neighborhood in northwestern Seoul, it is the only multilingual broadcaster run by and for migrant workers in Korea. It is operated independently by volunteers and Korean supporters.
The programs are recorded every weekend and programs are currently broadcast every other week in nine languages. The focus is mostly on local news of interest to migrant workers in Korea. However, the organization has also begun to translate Southeast Asian news into Korean and post it on its Web site, www.migrantsinkorea.net.
Ms. Chau wrote a recent news story about the misuse of the Vietnamese language in the names of Vietnamese restaurants in Seoul. In her piece, headlined “A Native Vietnamese’s Complaint Ignored,” she wrote about her recent visit to one such restaurant where she was challenged by the Korean manager after suggesting the restaurant’s name was incorrect, carrying a different meaning than what it seemed to imply.
“I had a Korean colleague ask me the other day whether people in my country walk down streets bare chested,” says Munkh Nomin, a scriptwriter for Mongol news. “I was shocked. Koreans seem too indifferent to people living in other Asian nations.”
That was one of the main goals for the broadcaster: changing the public conception of other Asian nations. Setting up the station wasn’t easy, however ― it took a year before they could start broadcasting.
The station was originally established by Park Kyong-ju, an artist and human rights activist who lived for a long time in Germany. She also worked with migrant workers for years as part of a video project aimed at correcting widespread prejudice against migrant workers in Korea, and supporting their struggles.
Last year, Ms. Park arranged a media workshop for migrant workers in Korea who were interested in producing a multilingual broadcast, by working as either reporters, writers or technicians.
After media professors and technicians spent months training the workers to write news reports and make video recordings, the network aired its first show on Feb. 1.
After that show, foreign workers from all over the country asked to participate in production of the program. The network has continued its media workshops every Saturday evening in order to train more reporters.
Recently, the station was registered as a member of the Korean Association of Internet Journalists. Eventually, its members hope to mobilize a global network to help migrant workers communicate around the world.
“I assure you, the Migrant’s Net will get the proper evaluation it deserves within the next 10 years,” says Beom Laoti, a reporter for news on Nepal. “[This is] because Korea is increasingly turning into a multicultural society. There will be more and more people who ask for civil rights as constituents of Korean society.”


by Park Soo-mee
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