Lee Sang-jae (Head of Education and Public Relations Team, Korea Migrant Workers Human Rights Center)
One Sunday afternoon last spring, Thu Han, a Vietnamese, came to the center with an open face as if he had been drinking since morning. Touhan’s voice is high, perhaps because of his drunken luck. Holding the pay envelope in hand, he said, “Isn’t this a problem? How can I do this?” When he met, a blood line appeared on his forehead, which was bright with the story of his ex-girlfriend and his new lover. To sum up Tuhan’s story in one word, he said, ‘I can’t stand it any longer’, so I want to change it. It was quiet and I turned around and found myself sleeping on the sofa.
Tu Han entered Vietnam under the Employment Permit System and completed three years at the end of last year and returned to his hometown Vietnam to renew his contract. I usually go there for a month, but there was no work at Tuhan’s factory, so I spent two months at my hometown. When I came back and received my salary, there were two deductible items that were not there before. For the past three years, the company had provided 150,000 won for dormitory and lunch expenses. After that, the remaining amount was 630,000 won. After coming back, I didn’t have much work for two months, so I thought that the game would be difficult. However, the deduction amount remained the same even after the economy had calmed down and work had increased to the point where I had to work overtime on Sunday. After hesitating a few times, I asked the manager. Then he showed me the contract and said, “Didn’t you say that when you renewed the contract?” and “Why are you doing this again?” Looking back, I think I heard something like that. However, Mr. Tuhan did not realize that this was the case. He could not imagine from his experience that he could stay for three more years, and that his salary could be lower if he worked for three years, although he is quite a technician.
Last night, while talking to friends from my hometown who worked in another factory, I was reminded of the things I had endured. His new girlfriend works in a cell phone parts assembly plant. She sits on a chair and looks at things like a magnifying glass all day, inspecting small parts for defects. There is no difference in salary with the same Korean women. This is because the minimum wage is set at a level that cannot be lowered any further. On the other hand, Tuhan does CNC work. It is a heavy labor of standing all day, lifting, cutting, and lowering heavy objects. However, they both have the same salary. Tuhan is also the minimum wage. But Tuhan’s Korean colleagues are getting more than double his. I don’t know the exact amount, but that’s the way it is. The salary of a newcomer who is beaten in the head with a sledgehammer by Lee because he doesn’t know how to use a machine yet is higher than he who has worked for 3 years Even so, the president of South Korea insisted on cutting the wages of foreigners because they were expensive. Precise cutting is Tuhan’s specialty, but I don’t know if even the superiors are trying to cut our breasts. This is why Tuhan can’t help but drink alcohol in the morning.
The drink that Tuhan drank in the morning was Korean soju. The price of soju is not discounted for foreigners. The same goes for taxes included in it. I live in Korea. I really hate people who come to work and say that they need a living expense in Korea, so they can give me a salary discount. For three years, I came alone without a family and worked only that much, and then telling me to go back is making a machine that works, not a person, but if you ask me if I am willing to accept that kind of treatment and come to Korea, I have nothing to say. No. It was definitely the beginning. I came to know that But his mind changed. It’s because he didn’t leave behind all of the human emotion that allows him to find friends and drink alcohol in the morning when he gets angry while living here.
Tuhan, who returned to his face as if something was about to happen, appeared again after a long time. The salaries of other Korean colleagues were also discounted by 20%. Otherwise, Tuhan couldn’t even talk about it because he asked me to leave. Mr. Tuhan, who is not good at Korean, said he felt strange when he heard the news. It feels both comforting and hopeless. Since then, he has made a lot of friends with Korean colleagues. Later, Tuhan said that he would use his strength when renewing his contract, and he is helpless even with their salary cuts, but he tilts his head to see how helpful it will be. Anyway, he decided to just put up with it until the one-year contract expired, and his forehead brightens again with the story of his new lover.
Human rights to be buried in the reform of the minimum wage law
Even before the controversial Minimum Wage Act was amended, the response sent to the civil society protesting by the Korea Federation of Small and Medium Business Cooperatives (hereinafter referred to as the Small and Medium Business Cooperatives), which is raising public outrage by sending an official letter to companies across the country by setting the minimum wage to a rate that can be deducted for accommodation expenses It’s amazing. In the meantime, trainees were provided with lodging and lodging because they were not workers. If you do not give Koreans to the same worker, but only give to foreigners, that is discrimination. The logic of the government and politicians pushing for the amendment of the Minimum Wage Act is also the same. Numerous human rights violations and numerous Tuhans have been living here with their eyes open. I wonder how such facial confiscation is possible.
The minimum wage to be paid to a worker set by the state is the minimum wage to prevent exploitation by employing employees at low wages. However, classifying the minimum wage by skin color and nationality is clearly racial discrimination. Where the president steps forward and discriminates, where a minimum wage increase that is lower than the inflation rate is passed, it is impossible for migrant workers and Korean workers to work with them to have the minimum right to live and human rights. In the British film ‘Free World’, directed by Ken Loach, there is a line that asks if the father pays the minimum wage to the daughter who runs a foreign labor company. It is bitter that the issue of the minimum wage, which is the last bastion of migrant workers around the world, is not only controversial in Korea.
# This article was published in Human Rights Oreum.