Results for exploitation probe revealed

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Results for exploitation probe revealed

The police announced yesterday interim results following a nationwide criminal investigation into worker exploitation, stating that three farmers had been imprisoned and arrest warrants had been issued for three brokers in Sinan County, South Jeolla, for luring mentally handicapped persons into years of forced labor at salt farms.

Twenty-two victims have been discovered in the probe so far, most of whom were forced to work two to five years; four were found to have been exploited for more than a decade, with another having been enslaved for 15 years. A total of 26 farmers and brokers were apprehended in the investigation.

For most of the victims, overdue wages amounted to between 50 million to 100 million won ($93,000). Reports showed that some proprietors also embezzled their governmental disability allowances. No instances of collaboration were discovered between the police and the perpetrators in previous inspections at police stations in Mokpo, South Jeolla, though 74 officers were demoted for neglect.

Among the 22 laborers, six were deceived by farmers who personally searched through downtown areas for their victims.

The rest were found to have been duped by employment agencies and then transported to the farms.

In one instance, police reported that a 58-year-old mentally challenged man, only identified as Han, was approached in a restaurant by a man surnamed Park, who told him he was a salt farmer from Sinan County, South Jeolla, and the deputy head of the township council.

Park, 58, offered to pay for Han’s meal and offered him a job on his farm that promised a handsome salary. Han took the farmer’s offer, afterward enduring seven years of nonpaid labor and assault, according to the police.

Park denied the charges during the police investigation, though witness testimonies contradict his statements. The police are planning to press charges against him. The victims were all sent back to their families or are under the care of protection facilities.

BY LEE SEUNG-HO [selee@joongang.co.kr]


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