More cases of exploitation uncovered

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More cases of exploitation uncovered

Amid a nationwide investigation into worker exploitation, police have found 20 more laborers who were discovered to have been forced into slavery on nearby salt farms or who had not been paid wages in years.

The probe follows revelations that laborers at a salt farm in Sinan County, South Jeolla, who are mentally and physically disabled, had been forcibly enslaved.

Authorities arrested 18 perpetrators and one illegal immigrant worker during their investigation and are planning to expand their search.

The Mokpo Police Station widened its investigation last week, questioning 170 owners and laborers in Mokpo’s Sinan County in light of the first case.

The police estimated the total amount of unpaid wages to be 200 million won ($188,000).

Among the 20 workers was a 54-year-old man surnamed Ha who had not been paid his salary in more than 10 years, though his employer agreed to pay him 36 million won after the investigation.

And the employer of one mentally challenged man owes him approximately 15 million won since he forced the man to work in 2012.

The exploitative employers appear to prey on the disadvantaged, the authorities stated, particularly given that the two men at the salt farm in Sinan County, South Jeolla, were disabled.

The police are looking to investigate 11 more remote islands where a number of salt farms operate.

They will also arrange individual face-to-face talks with owners of fishing boats, as well as workers on fish farms, in the hopes of uncovering similar cases.

The two disabled men discovered in January, surnamed Kim and Chae, were rescued by police from a salt farm on Sinui Island in Sinan County. The case fuelled public outcry after media reports revealed how the two laborers were forced to work in inhumane conditions.

BY PARK EUN-JEE [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]

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