Neo-slavery in Korea is concentrated in small, farming/island communities or industrialized factories. These two have one thing in common: they’re dirty jobs and are looked down upon.
I want to specifically focus on neoslavery in the countryside because I feel like it’s a very good case of how “small societies”-like the one in the movie Dogville-contribute to fostering an environment of incredible cruelty and violence.
The people mainly exploited can be divided into 3 categories, and while there is a lot of overlap between the three, I feel like there are unique differences that each face, and will deal with them accordingly. There are the disabled/homeless people, the undocumented (and documented) immigrants, usually from Southeast Asia, and women.
For the disabled/homeless people, a lot of them are kidnapped and such and sent to work on labor-intensive fields of work, such as in salt fields, fishing, and so on. And even if you weren’t mentally ill for example to start with, the beatings and brutal treatment and the huge amount of mental torture you face each day soon causes you to be mentally unstable. The most high-profile case I can think of is the “salt field slavery” case and the “grandfather slave”. In the “salt field slavery” case, which was in 2014 mind you, the victims had found a broker who had promised them a more lucrative job, but as they were disabled (one was mentally disabled and the other was visually handicapped) and homeless (they had left their homes), they were vulnerable to exploitation and were sent to the salt fields. The owner not only forced them to work in the fields but also had them do other work, such as construction, housework, and so on, didn’t have more than 5 hours of sleep, were beaten up, and never paid. They were constantly watched to see if they’d escaped. Eventually a letter that one of them had written was carefully sent to his mother, and in the letter he asked her to disguise herself as a salt merchant. The police, after extensive amount of detective work and disguises, found them. The villagers didn’t feel any amount of remorse, even answering “well, if your dog escapes, would you not look for it?” when asked why they did not allow the workers to escape. Also as Korean law is very lacking in these issues, the owner was not sentenced to jail but only fined. Sources here. The officials, local police and the owners also know each other (see again: small community) and so work together and ignore such cases of human rights violations. Sources here. After being abused and worn out from such harsh treatment, these people often die; and mostly thrown into the sea. We don’t know.
It’s important to note here that according to this article, most of the people found in salt fields and fish farms and so-called “institutions” for disabled people were actually people who were reported as lost or someone without family and friends (usually the homeless), wanted criminals, and disabled people. A third of those who were found (107 out of 370 people) had not been paid. The scariest thing is that this was a case where the police had announced their intent to search for unpaid workers before going on the actual search; there must be hundreds, if not thousands, who had been hidden.
The cases of people used as slaves on islands (there are numerous islands in Korea and it’s near impossible to patrol them all) is even more creepy in that the villagers justify this abuse by saying that the victims somehow deserve it because they were “r*****s”. In an article again from 2014, the villagers were interviewed, and they praised the slave owner as “a model person” while calling the workers slurs. Sources here. The job of a “slave owner” is even passed on, which means that the entire family knows that they’re using the workers as slaves, going as far as to making insurance in the victim’s names and taking away the money. This was dealt with in an article in 2012. Sources here. And it’s not even on the salt fields; ships are also rife with such “slave” workers. There’s a 2014 case where a former “slave” who worked on a ship catching crabs states that he had less than 4 hours of sleep per day. Sources here.
In the “slave grandfather” case, this was a case where the people living in the village had passed him on as a “slave” or “serf” just like during the Joseon dynasty, and thought nothing of maltreating them. In fact their rhetoric is very similar to what slave owners thought-“we gave him a place to stay and food to eat, I don’t know why they’re complaining” which is downright horrifying. The original “owner” had died and passed on the “ownership” to his son, and so the “slave grandfather” had been working for a total of 50 years, sleeping in a garbage heap and eating rotten rice. The most horrifying thing is that similar cases had been found all across the country. Sources here, here, here and here.
It is essential to note that these are all cases where the entire village was complicit in such violence and brutality. It is important to note that the police and public servants were essentially powerless because the village had fostered a toxic culture of it’s own, causing them to be sucked in as well. It’s important to note that this is essentially impossible to fix, because we cannot track down every small village or every small island. However, this is a very grave human rights issue that we should all keep in mind.
Part 2 about migrant workers and part 3 about women coming up soon. I need to take some rest.
“ Today, the United States is No. 1 in billionaires, No. 1 in corporate profits, No. 1 in CEO salaries, NO. 1 in childhood poverty and NO. 1 in income and wealth inequality in the industrialized world. ”
— Senator, Bernie Sanders. (via nzingasconquests)
Sep 21 2014
“ … The support generated in favor of William Masters for shooting two Mexican American teenagers engaged in spray painting is striking when compared to the condemnation of the Singapore government in response to its decision to cane Michael Fay, a non-Latino White teenager who was caught spray painting cars in Singapore less than a year earlier. In 1994, Fay pleaded guilty to two counts of mischief, admitting that he and other spray painted eighteen cars, threw eggs at other cars, and switched license plates on other cars.
A Singapore judge sentenced Fay to four months in prisons, a $2,230 fine, and six lashes with a rattan cane. The outrage in America was immediate. Describing her son as “a typical teenager,” Fay’s mother appealed to U.S. government officials to intervene and insist on clemency for her son, explaining, “Caning is not something the American public would want an American to go through. It’s barbaric.” U.S. Embassy officials and members of the American chamber of Commerce responded by condemning the severity of the sentence. Even President Bill Clinton asked the Singapore government to reconsider the sentence.
When a White American shoots two Mexican Americans for spray painting columns supporting a freeway, killing one of the youths, he is called a crime-fighting hero. When a foreign government canes a White American youth for spray painting and egging cars, that punishment is denounced as inhumane and cruel. ”