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NYT: Korean Fire Ends Migrants’ Hard Journey Home

Posted January. 12, 2008 03:01,   


“Korean Fire Ends Migrants’ Hard Journey Home”

This was the title of a Jan. 9, New York Times (NYT) article that reported the story of the tragic death of 13 ethnic Korean laborers from China in a refrigeration warehouse fire located in Icheon, Gyeonggi Province.

NYT reported that life is not easy for ethnic Koreans from China living and working in Korea. The article estimated their number to be around 300,000 and that they came to fulfill their "Korean dream."

The article also pointed out that these descendants of Koreans who left their motherland to avoid the pressures of colonial Japanese rule and poverty are today coming to South Korea because the annual income they can receive here is equivalent to what would take them 10 years to earn in China. However, it also pointed out that most spend their lives in Korea working the so-called three-“D” jobs: “dirty,” “difficult” and “dangerous.”

Meanwhile, some South Koreans do not always welcome ethnic Koreans from China. This is partly because some South Korean laborers think that the migrants deprive them of jobs and drive down wages.

The sister of an ethnic Korean from China who was killed in the warehouse fire was in a rage, saying, “In South Korea, we work like cows and are treated like slaves."

Hwang Jeong-hwa, who also lost her husband, tearfully said, “Because my husband and I worked in separate places, we only met once or twice a month for a few hours. We didn’t have enough time to see each other even when he was alive.”

NYT added that South Korea’s economy would falter without 300,000 ethnic Koreans from China and 200,000 migrant workers from poorer countries, like Vietnam and Myanmar.