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4 Mar 2024

By Choe Sang-Hun, New York Times (USA),
Seoyeon Min, Chosun Biz (South Korea)

S. Korea: Migrants filling labour shortages amid 'demographic crises' experience abuse upon arrival incl. in agri-food supply chains & manufacturing

See all tags Allegations

Shutterstock (licensed)

“South Korea Needs Foreign Workers, but Often Fails to Protect Them”

…the nation is more dependent than ever before on an import to keep its factories and farms humming: foreign labor.

This shift is part of the fallout from a demographic crisis that has left South Korea with a shrinking and aging population. Data released this week showed that last year the country broke its own record — again — for the world’s lowest total fertility rate.

President Yoon Suk Yeol’s government has responded by more than doubling the quota for low-skilled workers from less-developed nations including Vietnam, Cambodia, Nepal, the Philippines and Bangladesh. Hundreds of thousands of them now toil in South Korea, typically in small factories, or on remote farms or fishing boats…

…foreign workers were nearly three times more likely to die in work-related accidents compared with the national average, according to a recent study…

…For nearly three years, Mr. Asis worked 12-hour shifts, six days a week, in a small textile factory for a monthly salary of about $2,350 — which he did not regularly receive.

“They have never paid me on time or in full,” he said…

Migrant workers annually report $91 million in unpaid wages, according to government data…