Lee Sang-jae (Korea Migrant Workers Human Rights Center)
Discrimination against migrant workers is boring. Seeing that even newspapers such as the Chosun Ilbo talk about discrimination against migrant workers when bored, it seems that it has become a synonym for discrimination that everyone living in this country nods their heads. It is no longer a heartbreaking pain for activists working at migrant workers’ counseling centers. It has become a discrimination that can be easily faced because no one can say anything about it even if we don’t go over the fundamental issues, in which we can look back only as much as the time we face the painful landscape. It is a light discrimination that can capture the brightly smiling scenery by stroking once during a holiday, or by inviting celebrities from home countries to a consolation feast. It has become a natural landscape of us living in an era where lowly capital is the master. Today, someone may be knocking on the door of the migrant worker counseling center in search of a more shocking case of discrimination. Perhaps it is not the reality that all minority movements face.
As the saying goes, ‘byeongsin’, discrimination against dark-skinned migrant workers has deep roots and is so accustomed that their actions take precedence over their hearts. The business owners who claim to have their own management philosophy of hiring migrant workers even after taking the price of fair labor without any guilt, or the government that has been running the modern slavery industrial training system for decades, and us who watch it. It is possible because the discriminatory consciousness of nodding one’s head is firmly entrenched in everyone’s mind. When it comes to undocumented migrant workers who exist on this land but do not acknowledge their existence under the name of illegal immigrants, the discrimination is natural.
Ali was a migrant worker from Pakistan. Earlier last year, he was forcibly cracked down and expelled from this land. He was 29 at the time. It was the first time I lived in Korea for 6 years. I met him in the visiting room of the foreigner detention center, and he was heartbroken, and he cried for help so that he could go out again, even for a moment. When they meet migrant workers who are usually under arrest and protection, they try to catch a flight back home as soon as possible, thinking that they will have to give up their minds about living in Korea and return to live. Especially since it’s like a prison for a horse shelter. It was clear that there was a deep wound that I could not tell.
Ali lived in a semi-basement apartment in Seo-gu, Incheon, with a deposit of 500,000 won and a monthly rent of 150,000 won. In that house alone, migrant workers lived in four rooms. Since it is a neighborhood where many migrant workers live, I was able to live without the uncomfortable gaze of Koreans. But something happened. A few days after moving in, I often ran into a Korean lady at the gate during rush hour. She said she was the daughter of the upstairs owner. At first, they couldn’t even meet each other’s eyes. As time passed, we started to exchange eye contact with each other. The problem started then. It was in his chest that she had entered. I kept thinking of her. He said that when he woke up in the morning and went to work, his heart raced in case he ever met her. But Ali had to wash his face with cold water to calm his heart. She was an ‘illegal alien’ and was afraid of not knowing how she would react.
I took courage. I told her ‘let’s eat together’ in the alley in front of my house during work hours. She quickly turned away without saying a word. Ali regretted revealing his feelings, but there was no turning back. A few days later, he was arrested while sleeping in his room. This is the explanation given by the immigration office to human rights groups who are protesting human rights violations, saying, ‘It is unavoidable to be cracked down at night at an ordinary house, not a workplace, because there have been reports of people around. The fact that undocumented migrant workers are living on their feet is that feelings of love are the reason for deportation.
Discrimination against migrant workers is boring. However, the pain of banal discrimination is not exhausting. it really hurts