Probe reveals more cases of worker exploitation

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Probe reveals more cases of worker exploitation

The South Jeolla Provincial Police Agency has discovered additional instances of forced slavery in an overall investigation into exploitation on remote salt farms, including one case involving a 59-year-old man surnamed Park who allegedly killed one of his employees in 1994.

The man shut down his salt farm 10 years ago and currently runs a restaurant in Sinan County, South Jeolla.

Authorities arrested Park over allegations that he abused other employees under his care over the years, which were corroborated by witness testimony. In Korea, the statute of limitations for murder cases is 25 years. However, Park is likely to evade prosecution on murder charges, as the statute of limitations in 1994 was 15 years and would have since expired.

Accusations that he was physically abusing his employees while operating the salt farm surfaced during authorities’ investigation, when one of Park’s employees, surnamed Yu, who has worked for Park since 1998 and currently works at the restaurant, told police about multiple instances of mistreatment, accusing him of killing one of his employees in 1994.

According to the witness, Park killed a 40-year-old worker, surnamed Uhm, by binding his hands together and drowning him in a water tank - an account that Park admitted to the police.

The employee’s body was found in the tank, and police concluded at the time that Uhm had missed his footing and died accidentally. Park has also been accused of stabbing one of his restaurant workers in 2010, reportedly after the employee complained. At the time, Park claimed the employee, surnamed Choi, accidentally injured himself at the restaurant after he tripped.

The police have arrested Park on the suspicion of attempted murder and are looking into the reasons why a proper investigation was not conducted. The nationwide probe, conducted since February, follows revelations that laborers at a salt farm in Sinan County had been forcibly enslaved.

So far, officials have investigated 20 salt farm owners and brokers and arrested 10 of them. Thirty-six others are currently under investigation.

Among those arrested was Park Yong-chan, 59, a former vice chairman of the Sinan County Council, who is alleged to have kept wages adding up to about 100 million won ($96,382). He is also accused of physically abusing his employees.


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