Open Fast Door! Come On, Open the Door!

Choi Hyun-mo (Director of the Center for Migrant Workers’ Human Rights in Korea)

On February 11th, a tragic incident occurred in which 10 people were killed and 17 others were injured in a fire at a foreigner’s shelter in Yeosu. And on March 30, at a hospital in Yeosu, the funeral of 10 migrant workers was held. The atmosphere of the funeral, led by the Ministry of Justice, was calm enough to overshadow the social interest in the early days of the fire. Only the silent shouts of the bereaved family, who were weeping endlessly over the bitterness and bitterness, and officials from civil society organizations, who had criticized the government from the beginning of the incident and urged the investigation into the truth and the preparation of fundamental countermeasures, only reminded us of the disaster 50 days ago.
Immediately after the fire, the media showed an unprecedented high interest. But now, the media, which dissected the government’s migrant worker policy, analyzed the cause of the fire, and laid out all sorts of countermeasures, have long since shut their mouths. The interest of civil society, who pointed out the responsibility of the state for the disaster and urged the government to make sincere efforts to resolve the case and fundamental policy improvement, is also waning. Meanwhile, the government made no official apology to the bereaved family and the wounded in hospital, who had to stay in the barren mortuary for over 50 days to relieve their grief. Without clear evidence, the cause of the disaster was concluded with the ‘arson’ of one victim, and while evading the state responsibility, he was only trying to negotiate with a few pennies of money, evading national responsibility, and negotiating with an unreasonable sacrifice. No fundamental improvement measures were taken. Rather, detention and deportation of migrant workers in the name of forced crackdown and protection continue.
Now, many broadcast cameras and cameras no longer look back at the scene of the incident. It has only been less than two months since he complained that he had clearly exposed the dire human rights reality as an inevitable result of the South Korean government’s erroneous policy on migrant workers. In the wake of the fire disaster at the Yeosu Foreigners’ Shelter, the social voice of the need to correct the wrong system is slowly being forgotten in people’s memory. It’s unfortunate. The indifference and insensitivity of Korean society, which is tightly closed and not opened, is even more pitiful than the human rights trampled on by the deceased who were unfairly sacrificed and the wounded who suffered indelible wounds while trapped in an iron cage that did not open even at the desperate moment between life and death.
“快開door!”. These words were written on a picket held in the hands of the bereaved families who demanded the disclosure of the scene of the fire incident on February 20 and an official apology from the shelter director. ‘Come on, open the door!’ The bereaved family, devastated in front of the absurd corpse of the family, heard the desperate voices of the deceased who would have cried at the scene of Abi Gyu-hwan’s fire. Would it be an overstatement to say that Korean society’s disrespect toward migrant workers is exposed in the desperate cry that the Korean society, which has been selfishly brought to life through migrant workers, could not hear?  
‘Open the closed door!’ This is a severe rebuke to the door of social conscience and reason, which has never been properly opened since the late 1980s, when migrant workers began to enter Korean society. A door is a way to open a blocked place and communicate. Opening the door means acknowledging social values ​​between real beings and enabling understanding, cooperation, and consideration through exchanges. However, for the past 20 years or so, our society has excluded migrant workers from the subject of understanding and cooperation through communication by not opening the door to migrant workers. Or perhaps, by denying their existence, understanding, cooperation, and consideration were not in mind.
The so-called ‘illegal aliens’ are people whose existence itself is not recognized. There is ‘labor’ as an act of sweating and sweating in the industrial field of the 3D industry that Koreans do not seek, but the existence of ‘worker’ is not recognized as ‘illegal’ people. People who do not engage in any form of active criminal activity, but have become “illegal” because they do not stay in a fixed time and space. For this reason, criminals can be arrested and imprisoned only by warrant and trial, but these ‘illegal’ people are arrested and detained without a warrant or trial and deported without even reasonable remedies.
Because their existence itself is illegal, their actions are not recognized as justification, and any actions inflicted on them do not matter at all. Even if a vicious business owner uses violence and takes their wages, even if their rights are infringed by public officials who should do their best to remedy their rights, even if they lose their lives or receive irreparable injuries due to the random violence of the crackdown team in the middle of the night, ‘protection’ It doesn’t matter if you lose your life while being detained under the name of After all, these are ‘illegal’ people whose existence cannot be acknowledged, because they are merely targets of the barbaric acts of ‘tracking’ and ‘expulsion’.
Among migrant workers, as mentioned above, there are ‘illegal’ people whose existence is not recognized, while others have been denied their value as a normal existence by distorting their existence. Over the past 15 years, the distortion of its existence has been expressed in various terms. 
  An industry that has denied the rights of a ‘worker’ by treating them as ‘students’ under the name of ‘trainee’ and performing technical internships, even though they exist in Korea with a legal status of residence and are employed and working in industrial fields. This is the ‘training system’, and the ’employment permit system’ that acknowledges the rights of a ‘worker’ and denies even the basic right to ‘relocate the workplace’. Migrant workers under the Employment Permit System are employed in the 3D industry, where most of the work Koreans cannot or cannot do, but they are forced to assume the value of a false existence under the pretext of protecting Korean workers. In reality, it is not Korean workers who enjoy the benefits of this system, but the employers who threaten migrant workers based on the system of ‘workplace movement restrictions’ and the politicians who establish a political position by representing their interests. No, perhaps, it is a selfish self-portrait of all of us who are self-sufficient in knowing and not knowing.
The fire at the Yeosu Foreigner Shelter is a sad disgrace to the Korean government and society, who have fallen into selfishness while ignoring the obvious existence of living together. It is frustrating and sad to see our reality that there is no reflection despite the innocent sacrifices of 10 people. Whether it was arson or a real fire, whether it was a mistake to put a urethane mat that emits toxic gas, whether the fire alarm was working normally, whether the disaster evacuation was appropriate, and whether the management and supervision were neglected are not the essence of the incident. The essence is the ‘gate’ of conscience and reason in our society, which has never been properly opened for over 20 years.
2007 today. There are already 400,000 migrant workers with us. It is said that by 2010, 1 million migrant workers will be with us. Isn’t it a natural thing to recognize the legitimate existence value of those brought in by our needs? The demands of migrant workers are simple and clear. It is to ask for a fair wage for the amount of work worked, to refrain from inhumane abuse, and to improve the contradiction of the system in which a just act makes existence itself illegal. It is asking them to acknowledge that they are neighbors who clearly exist and contribute, and allow them to live together as members of Korean society.
For migrant workers who have been forced to deny and distort their existence as human beings and workers, today’s Korean society is nothing more than a cold iron cage. How long will the deception of calling a ‘prison’ made of iron bars and surveillance cameras a ‘shelter’ to continue? How long will we turn away from the desperate cry of migrant workers, ‘Open the door!’ in the face of a reality in which existence itself is not acknowledged or distorted? Now is the time to open the door. open fast door! Come on, open the door!

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