Ending discrimination

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Ending discrimination

Dec. 18 is International Migrants Day. In an age of globalization, when the labor force roams the world with far fewer restraints than before, each nation should protect the rights of migrant workers and their families.

Unfortunately, Korea is still a backward country when it comes to human rights as illustrated by the crackdown on illegal migrant workers announced just in time by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea.

More worrying, a survey of migrant workers at four detention centers in Korea reveals a spate of human rights violations, such as officials not identifying themselves properly or not fully explaining to workers why they have been detained, and women being denied use of the bathroom or reportedly getting sexually harassed.

It seems clear that officials are ignoring a basic international standard concerning the human rights of illegal migrant workers caught up in crackdowns.

But the number of foreigners staying inside the country has continued to grow and as of the end of October stands at 1.17 million people, including 210,000 who are here illegally. Some migrant workers have Korean spouses and now form an important segment of Korean society. Should they be treated like this?

Our society has clearly not yet matured enough to be called a multicultural society. In August last year, a United Nations subcommittee on the elimination of human rights discrimination reprimanded Korea following illegal crackdowns on migrant workers, unfair labor practices and domestic violence that foreign spouses and their children experience. The warning is an official confirmation from the international community that Korea discriminates against foreigners.

To rid this country of this dishonorable distinction, we have to break the practice of exclusivity and so-called pureblood values. We have to embrace people who look different from us and who speak other languages.

We support the city of Ansan in Gyeonggi, home to the largest foreign population here, for setting up regulations on human rights of non-Koreans and for stating that it will protect the rights of migrant workers.

Let’s hope that more provincial cities follow in Ansan’s footsteps. We can’t continue to condemn foreigners who are our neighbors in a world where they are denied basic human rights.

Discrimination has no place in this country anymore.
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