We must protect our neighbors

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We must protect our neighbors

The police arrested a 36-year-old Korean man after footage of him brutally beating his Vietnamese wife in the company of their wailing two-year son went viral on the internet. In the video, the man punched and kicked his wife shouting “This is not Vietnam!” at her. The woman trembled in fear but reached out to calm her son. An acquaintance of the Vietnamese woman who posted the video on social media exclaimed “Korea is manic!” in Vietnamese. Many who saw the video were shocked by the domestic violence and ashamed that the crime was being committed in their society.

Human rights violations against migrant women in Korea has been a serious problem for a long time. According to the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, nearly half — 42.1 percent — of foreign women married to Korean men experienced domestic abuse. The ratio nearly quadruples the 12.1 percent experienced by Korean women in the same 2016 poll. “Don’t hit” is said to be one of the first Korean phrases migrant women learn to use. The victim told the police that she recorded the video because she could not endure beatings any longer. The community believes at least 20 migrant women have died from domestic violence in Korea over the last decade.

Moreover, the nightmare does not end for the victims even after their husbands are arrested, because they are usually released after a light punishment. A Cambodian woman was sexually abused by her brother-in-law for a year after she came to Korea to help her sister and her newborn. But the court pronounced the man not guilty after siding with his account that the woman had not protested strongly enough. The ruling outraged women and minorities in the country for neglecting the realities of migrant women and their families in Korea.

Foreign nationals living in Korea now exceed 2 million, meaning that four out of every 100 people in the country are not a Korean by birth. In certain neighborhoods of Seoul, the foreign-born population tops 10 percent. Migrant wives totaled 130,000 in 2017. Of them, 37 percent were from China and 27 percent from Vietnam. They take up a considerable share of the Korean community and any use of violence against them must be strongly punished. In Japan, both public and private sectors have programs to help immigrants and migrant workers settle and blend in with society. Korea does not have a similar program. The society must show more compassion for immigrants.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 8, Page 30
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