Even after Sok Heng’s death, the reality of migrant agricultural workers remains unchanged.

Even after Sok Heng's death, the reality of migrant agricultural workers remains unchanged.

Even after the death of Sok Heng, a migrant worker from Cambodia, who died while sleeping in a plastic house in December 2020, it was pointed out that there was no change in the poor working conditions of migrant workers working in rural areas.

The ‘Migrant Labor 119 Project Group’ and independent lawmaker Yoon Mi-hyang, in solidarity with the Earth People’s Stop, the Migrant Union, and the Gyeongnam Branch of the Metal Workers’ Union, held a press conference at the Guksoe Communication Center on the morning of the 27th to present a case of consultation for migrant agricultural workers and take measures to address housing and working conditions. urged

For the past year, the project group has conducted counseling activities for 300 migrant agricultural workers and has supported administrative and judicial relief rights in about 50 cases.

I-chan Kim, the representative of the local community service station, who conducted the consultation, said, “There were many cases where migrant workers did not have the address of the place of work in the employment contract signed before they even entered the country, or they deliberately omitted the lot number. This is being abused as a means to hide the use of migrant workers on various arable land like village servants,” he pointed out.

In the case disclosed by CEO Kim, the business address of migrant worker A’s employment contract is ‘Sangnam-myeon, Miryang-si’. Mr. A has provided labor to his employer or other employers in at least six different arable land.

According to the current employment permit system, the Ministry of Employment and Labor arranges and manages jobs for migrant workers. It is said that the Ministry of Labor is causing this situation with a ‘poor labor contract’.

There was also a problem in which the employer deceived the working hours specified in the labor contract or the Ministry of Labor arbitrated a labor contract in which the working hours were vaguely stated. CEO Kim said, “In Miryang-si, Gyeongnam, there is a labor contract that stipulates ‘3 hours of rest per day’, but the Ministry of Labor, which arranges the employment, has no knowledge of ‘the specific details of those 3 hours’.” Recently, in Iksan, Jeollabuk-do, there was an employment contract that set a break time of ‘6 hours’.

CEO Kim said, “An expedient document for unfairly exploiting the labor force is being created under the protection of the Ministry of Labor or collectively. The Ministry of Labor did not investigate the appropriateness of the guidelines and did not punish them even though they were excessive than the guidelines of the Ministry of Labor.”

Even after the death of Sok Heng in 2020 while sleeping in a greenhouse with no heating in the cold winter, the housing problem for migrant workers has not been resolved. As a result of the government’s fact-finding investigation at the time of this incident, it was found that 70% of migrant workers were living in temporary buildings. In response, the government announced an improvement plan that prohibits employers from using illegal temporary buildings for non-residential use as dormitories when they receive new employment permits for migrant workers, and requires that they be registered with the local government or registered in the building register to use them.

However, there were still many dormitory lodgings such as plastic houses, sandwich panels, containers, and abandoned houses, and it was found that there were many cases in which they even reported that they were using ordinary houses or villas as dormitories on paper, and actually had them used as lodgings in a plastic house next to farmland.

In particular, female migrant workers living in poor accommodations are at risk of sexual assault. CEO Kim said, “11 cases of sexual violence were also received, and most were related to the residential environment.”

Meimei, who worked at a strawberry farm in Iksan, Jeollabuk-do, said in an interview, “While I was taking a bath, someone peeped through the hole in the women’s bathroom. That person was my employer and boss,” he said.

“Now we have left the farm. The boss stole our bathroom and came out of the farm because of the boss. It’s not our fault that we can’t stay in that dorm any longer because of anxiety. “But we were so tired that we couldn’t discuss this case any further, nor the extra hours worked.”

Meanwhile, the Migrant Labor 119 Project Group is planning to proceed with a national compensation lawsuit asking the state responsible for the Sok Heng case.

Choi Jeong-gyu, a lawyer at Wongok Law Firm, who is participating in the lawsuit, said, “After staying in Korea for more than four years, Sok Heng has not received any hospital treatment. The person who arranged for Sok Heng to work in a workplace that did not even apply for health insurance, or the person who arranged for Sok Heng to work in a workplace that provides poor accommodation, is not a private employment agency, but a public official of the Ministry of Employment and Labor of the Republic of Korea. Since then, the Ministry of Labor has been aware that the dormitories at this workplace are poor.”

“It has been two years since Sok Heng passed away, but the poor living environment has not improved. Today, under the mandate of the Sok Heng family, we are submitting a national compensation complaint to the Seoul Central District Court.

Sok Heng received an industrial accident recognition from the Korea Workers’ Compensation and Welfare Service on May 2.

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