02/04/2015, 00.00
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In Korea, work can kill migrants but can also give new life

by Maurizio Giorgianni OMI
The stories of Mario, Federico and Bo Eun have different endings, but they all show the need for greater integration and better care for people in Korean society. The third and final part of the analysis by an Oblate missionary involved in caring for migrants in the country.

Gwangju (AsiaNews) - The personal stories of those forced to leave their country are often tragic, but they can sometimes bring some light of hope. This is the case of the three examples Fr Maurizio Giorgianni, an Oblate Missionary of Mary Immaculate, discusses in his final look at slave labour in South Korea. For the previous ones, click here and here.

The first story that comes to mind is that of Mario. When I first started to work with immigrants in Korea, I heard that Mario, a Filipino worker, was in desperate conditions.

After a long day at work, he went home to his tiny one-room flat. Probably from work-induced lack of sleep, he dozed off and fell to the floor as he was cooking something. Unfortunately, the stove caused a fire, and he suffered burns to his body.

As an illegal foreign migrant, he was not covered by any insurance or by the National Health Service. In this case, I found myself facing his employer's cruelty. Worried that he would be sued for employing an illegal worker, he refused to take responsibility or provide any help to cover the expenses.

We were able to get him into a hospital for free but after days of pain, Mario died from burns and smoke inhalations. After he was cremated, we decided to send the ashes to the Philippines with some offerings for the wife and their little baby.

A few months later, his wife and child came to Korea to thank the community, despite losing her husband right here. Mario's experience showed me how migrants in Korea live but also what lies behind each person.

Another story is that of Federico, a young Filipino man who had also entered Korea illegally. One night, he was struck on his motorcycle. It might have been his own fault because he was not wearing a helmet. In the end, he suffered broken bones and his face needed reconstructive surgery.

After coming out of a coma, he went back to work after a few months, of course, always without a visa. One day, the Immigration Department arrested him and sent him back to the Philippines. A few months later, I receive the news of his death, from drugs. His sad family situation had pushed him into depression.

This story made me think a lot about what a migrant really needs and that in his experience as a migrant he carries burdens and difficult moments that are hard to share, which are the reasons for his migration. Many times migrating is not a free choice but something forced.

Let me end this with a beautiful story. Bo Eun is a pretty Vietnamese woman who arrived in Korea through a marriage agency. She married a Korean, a good husband who helps her and encouraged her to study.

Bo Eun learnt Korean well and after a lot of efforts, she passed the entry exams to join the police. Now she works in the police department in the city where I live, and helps migrants who have difficulties or are victims of injustices.

Her story is that of a migrant who came and plays a leading role in the host society, who works for the good of a nation that is not her own. Are not many migrants just like that?

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