Why Do Migrant Workers Work So Hard?

Why do migrant workers work so hard?

Kim Gi-don

These days, the number of migrant workers visiting the center for counseling is increasing. Hesitantly, those who entered the center quickly hand out folded pay stubs and contracts. Then, they confide in their situation to the extent of their urgency. It is an unchanging landscape that has been taking place all over the country for the past decade. Why are there so many problems with migrant workers? And, why do they still have to visit and appeal to human rights organizations to find a clue to their problems? Some say that even though there are no problems with migrant workers, human rights groups are representing them without any problems, so the problem is creating a problem. Is that really the case?

More realities to solve to solve problems

To understand the reason, it is necessary to examine the peculiarities of migrant workers. Migrant workers may face the same problems in labor, medical care, and living that Korean workers and Koreans face. You may be unable to pay wages in a factory, you may get an industrial accident while working, you may become ill, or you may have an accident. Also, you may not be able to receive the monthly rent deposit from the landlord. However, the method of solving these problems is very different from that of Korean workers. Korean workers can solve these problems through the relevant laws and social safety nets, which are already known in common sense in society in general, or through agreement between the parties. Of course, the success or failure of solving a problem may differ depending on each individual situation, but all you need to do is raise the essential part of the problem and try to solve it. In other words, if you have not received your salary, you can go through the process to receive your salary, and if you have been unfairly dismissed, go through the process of reinstatement. 
However, it is difficult for migrant workers to achieve this due to insufficient language skills and insufficient information on relief procedures and related laws, and unlike Korean workers or Koreans, legal and institutional regulations must be considered together. 
 For example, if Koreans work in a factory and the job does not suit their aptitude or if there is a conflict with their factory colleagues, they simply quit the factory and move to another factory, but migrant workers cannot say that they will quit the factory. This is how the ‘Employment Permit System’, which allows migrant workers to work in Korea, works. The only reason you can change a company is if the company doesn’t pay you, you are assaulted, or you are unable to work at that company due to illness or accident. Other than that, you cannot change the company until the contract period is over, and even if you do, the number of times cannot exceed 3 times. If migrant workers say that they would quit the factory first and move to another place, and then they would hate the employer, the employer may degenerate the migrant worker into an unregistered person, that is, an illegal resident.
Also, for another example, if there is a migrant worker who works in a factory where wages are not being paid properly, the worker has to go through the process of relocating the company at the same time as taking a remedy to receive a salary. Also, migrant workers cannot leave the factory while these procedures are in progress. However, if you are a Korean worker, you will go to another factory right away and work hard to receive unpaid wages.

Institutions that prevent us from solving problems on our own

What about unregistered people? On the day the employer requests for overdue salary and reports it to the immigration office, he/she will be forced to leave the country. Even if you are assaulted or defrauded, you cannot go to the police station and complain about your situation. Even if they are victims of criminal cases, they are forcibly deported because they are not registered. Unregistered persons cannot claim anything properly because of their unstable status of stay. 
Due to these legal and institutional regulations, no matter how smoothly migrant workers working in Korea, they will inevitably face a difficult situation at some point. This is the reason why the consultations of migrant workers do not decrease, and why they have no choice but to appeal their situation to human rights organizations and ask for help. 
As a migrant worker, wouldn’t you want to solve the problem on your own? How frustrating it is to feel helpless when it is difficult to solve your own problems on your own. However, at present, there is not even a clue for migrant workers to solve the problem on their own. The desperate appeal of migrant workers will not cease in the future unless the current legal and institutional regulations, which are bound by complex regulations without granting the minimum rights, are urgently improved.

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