Sunday, October 30, 2011

Unauthorized life" of many Foreign Workers

Few are the ways we have of appreciating the difficulties of those who are marginalized in our society. One good way, outside of being in their shoes, is to work with them to ameliorate their situation. Writing for the Bible and Life magazine, a priest who works as director of the office for foreign workers in his diocese gives us a brief vignette about a worker who was looking for help.

Chartan arrived in Korea in 2009. After working for two years in a factory, he left before the termination of the work contract. He called to ask the priest if he will now be considered an illegal worker. He left, he said, because of the discrimination at the factory against the foreign workers. Although Korean workers were given 3-4-day vacations, foreign workers had to work, and when they on their own took a day off, 40 dollars of their pay was deducted for each day, even though they were only paid about 30 dollars a day. When Chartan complained to the owner, he angrily told him  to leave and not come back.

The priest told him to report to the employment center to find out what could be done. An employee at the center called the factory and was told that Chartan left on his own. "Why would they send him away when there was so much work to be done?" they were told.  The immigration bureau was notified of his situation. Chartan kept repeating he didn't want to be an illegal.

The priest says it's difficult to believe either the owners or the workers, but he believes the workers to be more trustworthy because of their urgent conditions. He recommended that Chartan become an illegal like many others. He would then have the freedom to look for another job provided he was not taken into custody. This did not appeal to Chardan so he called the owner and asked to be taken back.

We have a society, the priest says, where many are doing things illegally. He quotes a poet who lived for some time doing what was not legally permitted, protesting what he considered violations of human rights.

The priest ends his article by noting that many with money and high positions do many things that are illegal--and get away with it--believing these things are necessary to succeed in our society. However, the foreign worker is required to do everything according to law. He wonders when the day will come when those without money and power will be able to live well.               

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