[Letters] Protecting migrant workers

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[Letters] Protecting migrant workers

With foreign migrant workers in Korea accounting for more than 1 million, an urgent new policy is necessary. The current employment permission system is not sufficient in itself.

A new system should support migrant workers by prohibiting employers from exploiting their employees. The workers should be guaranteed better working conditions, longer work periods and similar wage rates to that of regular workers.

However, we should not neglect that this new policy, too, would not be without its problems. It would “disturb the ethnically homogenous society,” and provide comparatively less opportunities for Korean laborers. And furthermore, it does not solve the fundamental problem of employers still having overwhelming power over their employees.

In order to alleviate such problems, we should ensure the welfare of the foreign migrant workers by suggesting a comprehensive package system adding to the legislative employment permission system.

First, there should be a more active measure to ameliorate the working environment. The government should make the companies submit a regular file report about how they treat migrant workers, and should conduct a random inspection to check if this is true. They should also establish local bureaus around the nation to ensure that migrant workers can file complaints and that their voices will be actually heard. Also, they should make employers that have been caught exploiting their workers subject to a strong fine or longer incarceration period.

Not only that, but a change in the social atmosphere should precede a superficial change in working conditions. The United Nations recently warned Korea that excessive, exclusive nationalism harms ethnic diversity in Korea. Indeed, a sense of superiority against the migrant workers is contributing to these problems because people disregard the seriousness of the workers’ sufferings and even believe they deserve such treatment. Koreans themselves should first recognize that foreign migrant workers are also a part of our community and always be wary of whether they are harshly treated or not. This would allow more foreign migrants to feel comfortable being in Korea, and even help to successfully substitute the Korean workforce in some cases, and contribute to ethnic diversity in a long-reclusive society.

In a nutshell, the recent change in policy on foreign migrants may have provided a stepping stone for us in bettering the lives of migrant workers here. In order to obtain the best for migrants and ourselves, we should go further and actively try to change the more fundamental problems. Only when this is done through the above-mentioned comprehensive packages can we really live in a more humane Korean society where human dignity is respected.

Kim Ji-yoon, Gimhae Foreign Language High School
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