Migrant workers in S. Korea subjected to appalling housing
Updated: 2021-02-25 14:01:52 KST
"When you're living here, is it worse during the winter or the summer?"
"Summers are tougher. There's a lot of work. It's also really cold in the winter. That's also tough."
Many migrant farm workers in South Korea dread the extremes of the country's climate.
Their dormitories, which are basically plastic-covered greenhouses, offer little protection against both the sweltering summer heat and the blistering winter cold.
"This whole place is an illegal temporary building that breaks several safety codes.
The walls are built out of vinyl and plastic and if you see in here, this is built out of polystyrene foam and shipping containers."
During one of the coldest nights of 2020, when temperatures plummeted to minus 18 degrees Celsius, a migrant farm worker died in one of these rooms.
Reports say that at the time her room did not have heating.
Little has changed since then.
Many migrant workers in agriculture continue to live in similar sub-standard conditions.
"There's an LPG gas cylinder just left out in the open, which could potentially be a fire hazard or even lead to a gas leak.
This room is used both as a kitchen and a shower room, but as you can see the ventilation is very poor in here and the place quickly filled up with smoke after cooking."
The room is damp and thick with the smell of fungus and mold.
"Now if you see over here, this is their bathroom.
Three women in their 20s all use this bathroom.
It's basically just a rubber basin planted in the ground with a few wooden planks on top.
It's highly unsanitary and obviously there's no flushing."
Farm owners charge workers between 135 U.S. dollars to 270 dollars a month to live in such conditions.
"A plastic porta-potty generally costs around 200 dollars. They didn't even bother to place a 200-dollar porta-potty here and gave workers a bathroom that you could only see in the 50s or 60s in South Korea."
A report from last year shows that almost one-third of the 15-thousand businesses that provide living quarters to migrant workers did not meet the basic legal requirements.
But as migrants need their employer's permission to extend their visa or move to another workplace, many workers dare not voice their complaints.
Kim Yeon-seung, Arirang News.