Monday, November 28, 2011

Foreign Workers Seeking Justice

Stories of inhumanity are familiar to all  but some move us more than others: especially with the weakest in society. Working with foreign workers in Korea a priest recounts the tale of a worker who had trouble getting his severance pay. 

Bible & Life magazine carries the story of a Nepalese worker Nari, who worked in a company of about a 100 for  six years. He was planning to return home to his family after 10 years in Korea, a country he grew to love. He had worked in many other different companies but from 2005 to 2011, it was the same company.

Nari  mentioned to the company  he would be leaving to return to Nepal. The section head called him into his office one morning  to sign a paper that said he would not be taking another job in Korea. Nari could speak Korean well  but  could not read or write. He signed the paper, but on second thought wanted it back so he could have one of his friends read what he was signing. The section head took the paper and ripped it up.

That afternoon the company president called him into the office and asked him to sign, and when Nari refused, he beat him and locked him in the office for two hours. After release, afraid he came to the counseling service run by the diocese asking for help in getting his severance pay.

The priest looking into the situation, found  the paper he was asked to sign stated that the severance pay he was to get was about 2,000 dollars when actually, it should have been over 10,000 dollars. The priest petitioned  the labor office and  heard a different story. In the year 2008 he had with others signed a paper that said that he  had received 5,000 dollars in severance pay. Nari said that he never received the money.
There were no records and his salary was always given in cash. The paper he signed in 2008, which said he received $5,000 was all the proof the company needed.               

The money was taken from Nari by fabrication of  paper forms, which made it impossible to do anything. What Nari wanted more than the money was to be respected as a person and treated with dignity. Fortunately, he could get the remaining severance pay but the priest  seeing the treatment of the workers and  not able to do anything, and no place to go for recourse, left him  angry and hurting.

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