Choi Hyun-mo (Director of the Center for Migrant Workers’ Human Rights in Korea)
In front of the ticket window at the Incheon International Airport International Terminal. Two children, who appear to be about ten years old, are following a woman who appears to be a mother, laboriously pulling a package larger than mine. Eventually, it was her turn, and the woman who was talking to the airline staff suddenly unpacked her luggage and took out things. Children’s toys, children’s books, clothes, game supplies, taekwondo uniforms, commemorative photo albums, writing contests and taekwondo competition plaques… … . A fight breaks out as the children try to pick up the things their mother puts out. A mother who wants to reduce the weight of the luggage she was going to carry on the plane is too heavy and the children who want to take the precious things containing their many memories are fighting. In the end, it is arranged that the people who have been seen off promise that they will send it out later, and the children are led by their mothers to the departure hall. A woman rushing to leave the country with her husband, who was recently arrested and deported, and the children who are driven away without knowing why they have to leave, crying that they couldn’t even say goodbye to their schoolmates, shows anxiety along with the hardship of life.
Islam and Naima were a migrant worker couple from Bangladesh. They came to Korea about 12 years ago. After getting married in Bangladesh, they left for migrant labor to Korea in search of a better future. About a year after coming to Korea, the couple had twins. In a foreign country where no one knows, the couple endured all kinds of discrimination and contempt, working for the future of their precious children. As the children grew up, the couple thought about going back to Bangladesh, but they wanted to raise their children in a better environment even if it was difficult, and above all, they wanted to have children born and raised in Korea grow up in a favorite place. Although there were many difficulties, the children were able to go to elementary school, and as they studied well, they were so popular among their classmates that they were even elected to the class president. Representing a nearby Taekwondo academy, I used to go to contests and win prizes. During the 2002 World Cup, there was a time when children shouted ‘Dae-Han Min-guk’ and spent a lot of money to go to the stadium. Although it was a foreign country where no one knew, the children and the couple were making their own little happiness.
Then one day, an unregistered Muslim was caught by the crackdown team. Mother Naima, who always had to fall in anxiety, said, ‘Something has come!’ However, he could not even tell the children that their father was caught and kicked out. What are the children guilty of? Naima searched for ways in every way, ‘Is it possible to send my husband first and stay in Korea so that the children can go to school’ and ‘Isn’t it possible to stay safely until the end of elementary school in Korea?’, but there was no other way. It will only increase the period of anxiety and fear of ‘illegal stay’. They were Korean children who were born and raised in Korea, but Korea was a country that could not give these children a small space to study and play comfortably. Five days after the children’s father was arrested, Naima led the children to the airport. The children could not understand why they had to suddenly leave the school they used to attend, and why they had no choice but to leave without even saying goodbye to their friends.
About three months after the family left, I received an email. Thanks for your help. Sorry for calling you late. Life in Bangladesh is not easy. It is said that children are the most difficult. Children don’t understand the language well, they can’t adjust to school, and they just cry every day to go to Korea. I don’t know what to do.
“A State Party to this Convention shall, without discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, language, religion, political opinion, national, racial or social origin, property, disability, birth or status, of a child or his/her parents or guardians, Rights must be respected and guaranteed to all children.” It is the provision of Article 2 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Korea has acceded to and ratified this Convention in 1991, and countries that have signed this Convention are obliged to mobilize and secure maximum resources necessary in all areas, including economy, society, culture, and education, for the survival and complete growth of all children. . Courts, administrative authorities and legislative bodies should first consider what is in the best interests of children in their activities involving children.
Korea is a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council. The UN Human Rights Council is an organization directly under the UN General Assembly and works for universal access to and practical responses to human rights issues in countries around the world. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most important international human rights instrument covered by this Council. At the time of its election as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, the government said, “The international community has positively evaluated our efforts to protect and promote national and international human rights as a leading human rights and democracy defender in Asia.” In the future, he said, “As a member of the Human Rights Council, we will actively participate in international human rights protection and promotion efforts and contribute to establishing the Human Rights Council as an effective organization that promotes the mainstreaming of human rights in the international community.”
Many years have passed since then. In 2010, it is said that there are about 20,000 children living in our country, unaware that they have been labeled as ‘illegal stay’ and do not know when they will be evicted.