A World Meets Volunteers – We hope we are
Kim Seong-hyeon (volunteer)
It was still early summer, and one day in June when a cool breeze blew, I first came to the Korea Migrant Human Rights Center. Migrant workers of various nationalities come here every Sunday to learn Hangeul. I visit the center every week for Korean language education for migrant workers. It is important for migrant workers to be able to express themselves properly while working in Korean society. This is because they need to communicate well when working in a company or workplace, and in their daily life.
However, rather than simply teaching Hangeul for the sake of Hangeul, I came to think about why migrant workers are learning Korean and what they really want to say by learning Korean. That is why I think it is very important to listen to the voices of migrant workers. From the time I first met and had conversations with migrant workers, the life I had previously envisioned began to emerge as a realistic problem.
The problems that migrant workers face while working in our society are very diverse. There are still cases where human rights are hidden in blind spots due to long hours of forced labor such as overtime work or verbal abuse and assaults that humiliate the person. It is common. Of course, migrant workers sometimes work more than the statutory working hours in order to receive overtime pay, but in many cases they are forced to work excessively because they can’t withstand the coercion of their employers. Therefore, it is an invisible reality for migrant workers that when their employer tells them to leave, they have to return to work and return to work. They say that migrant workers have no choice but to endure and tolerate because they are often responsible for the livelihood of their families despite the constant threats, delayed payment of wages, and long hours of work from vicious employers.
However, they also have an equal right to enjoy a humane life. This situation is making them live while being denied even the basic rights they deserve as workers. Migrant workers have the right to work fairly and to be treated accordingly. In our society, we have to play a role that can help these areas. Through active support activities such as publicity and assistance from the Ministry of Employment and Labor or social support groups, various participations are required to improve laws and systems that guarantee basic human rights and equal labor rights for migrant workers.
Our society still lacks interest in migrant workers. Words cannot fully describe the difficulties of living in a foreign country to appease the nostalgia and longing for migrant workers’ families. Migrant workers need not only money to support their livelihood. Like us, we must guarantee the basic right to work equally, and as a member of society, we must strive to embrace them and live together with the recognition that we are a part of our society.
As such, we should strive to build a lasting network between Korean society and migrant workers through movements to accept migrant workers as members of our society. In order to do this, we need to shake off the negative perceptions of migrant workers in society in an attitude of understanding and respecting the culture of migrant workers. At the very least, I hope they have the power to actively express their pain in Korean society.
If we can treat migrant workers like our brothers and accept them as members of society in our lives beyond racist thinking such as religion or ethnicity, we will help them with fair compensation for their work and the difficulties they are experiencing I think we can make a big change that can be made.
The life of a great person that would appear in a great man’s story is truly beautiful. However, I would like to say that the lives of migrant workers who just dream of being ordinary are also meaningful lives with unique values.
This change of perception towards a multicultural society is the beginning of participation in creating an environment for coexistence. And I sincerely hope and hope that the fruits of hope cherished in the hearts of migrant workers will bloom one by one as flowers through this participation.