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Myeong-dong Sit-in Struggle Collective Newsletter 4

Dont hide! Fight for your rights

Since the last newsletter, the South Korean government has continued it's severe manhunt/deportation policy despite the Myeong-dong Sit-in Struggle Collective (MSSC), human rights groups, and Korean and international NGO¡–s and labor groups strong demand to end it. On the contrary, it announced on January 7, 2004 that it will increase its already vicious attack after January 15 (reported in the Korea Herald on January 8). THE GOVERNMENT IS INCREASING THE TERROR AGAINST MIGRANT WORKERS! The government has also dramatically intensified its attacks on the only migrant-led worker's organization, the ETU-MB (Equality Trade Union, Migrant's Branch), which has struggled hard for the dignity and worker/human rights for migrants in South Korea for three years.


Seven migrant workers are dead as a result of the crackdown: Daraca (32, Sri Lanka), Bikku (34, Bangladesh), Kahin (31, Uzbekistan), Andrey (39,Russia), Burhon (50, Uzbekistan), Kim Won-seop (45, China), Jakaria (30, Bangladesh). These unregistered workers chose to die rather than be hunted like animals and deported to their home countries. Labeled by Korea as "illegal", they desperately threw themselves in front of subways or into the freezing winter sea, hanged themselves on factory machinery, or chose another way to end their tragic suffering caused by the manhunt. The South Korean government's merciless crackdown and deportations are not only violating migrant worker's labor rights but is also threatening their very lives. What we demand is a world where workers are treated as human beings and respected as workers ­ not slaughtered by laws that treat them like a commodity to be discarded.


On this date South Korean authorities forcibly deported Bidduth and Jamal. Forty immigration officers "escorted" them to the Incheon airport and four remained with them during the entire voyage. Upon arrival, the immigration officers handed them over to Bangladeshi police claiming absurdly that they were "involved in terrorist activities" in South Korea. This ridiculous claim would be laughable if it didn't have such serious potential consequences. They were detained for 5 senseless days, their only crime being "having associated with trade unions and civil groups" while in Korea. They were released on bail on January 4, 2004 and have courageously promised to continue their struggle for migrant workers from a distance. Bidduth said in a letter sent to us: "Whether I am in Korea or in Bangladesh, I am always with you comrades, until all of our labor rights are achieved. Please continue your movement!"


Merely one week after their failed attack on the MSSC at a Mok-dong immigration office rally, immigration officers picked off two migrant workers at a January 7 rally. At around 2:30 PM, on their return home from a legal rally held in front of the Bangladesh embassy, the MSSC and their supporters, all together around 70 persons, were encircled by around 120 riot cops and then violently attacked by 50 immigration officers who were trying to seize and arrest the workers. The police aided the arrests by surrounding migrant workers and allowing immigration cops through. They also assisted by applying violence to Koreans defending against immigration authorities' thuggish and brutal seizure attempts. Two MSSC members, Kul Bahadur Yakha (K.B.) from Nepal and Enamul Haq (Haq) from Bangladesh, were picked off by Seoul immigration officers and are presently being held in custody at the Hwaseong foreigner detention center. What is most disgusting is the fact that during this brutal capture, the immigration officers fired pepper spray stun guns at the migrant workers directly into their eyes. Immobilised, they were then dragged away screaming in pain. These highly repulsive acts, shamefully done in broad daylight by Ministry of Justice immigration officers, is a brazen and cowardly human rights violation raised to a new height.


Currently, over a thousand migrant workers all over the country are actively struggling against the Korean government's repressive and unfair migrant labor policy. Despite numerous hardships caused by the Korean government's strong-arm methods and extended exhausting sit-in struggles, the morale is as high as ever and the passion for the collective struggle unshakable. WE WILL WIN! International solidarity is urgently sought as we prepare an international joint action from the site of this year's World Social Forum (Mumbai, India) together with South Korea. On January 14, a large Korean delegation will leave for Mumbai to attend the WSF and inform the world about the injustices committed against migrant workers in South Korea. Delegates from the KCTU (Korean Confederation of Trade Unions), human rights NGOs have given their solemn promise to make the tragic case of the migrant worker¡–s situation here the focus of the forum. LET¡–S FIGHT TOGETHER!

Our demands:

Myoengdong Sit-in Struggle Collective - Contact: 016-711-5535 (Samar)

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