A woman identified by authorities as Chutima, 29, who had worked at a factory in Gyeonggi Province for nearly 10 years, was found dead on Nov. 5. She was killed by her Korean co-worker after a failed rape attempt, according to a police investigation.
Police say the 50-year-old suspect, now under arrest, lured Chutima to the site of the crime, saying a crackdown on migrant workers here without legal status was imminent and that he would help her avoid being caught.
Immigrant rights advocates said like Chutima, many unregistered workers are at risk of being targeted for crimes such as sexual assault, rape and human trafficking because they live in constant fear of deportation.
“We often see that people in South Korea look down on immigrant workers. Some female workers suffer sexual assaults at their workplace,” activist Han Sang-hoon told local news agency Hankyoreh.
Han volunteered as an interpreter for Chutima’s father, who came to South Korea last week upon learning the tragic news.
“The law should acknowledge the fact that there is already a growing unregistered immigrant population working here, and should improve their conditions to protect their rights,” Han said.
Apart from vulnerability to crimes, these workers, mostly from countries like Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam, often earn less than the minimum wage and endure poor sanitary conditions.
Critics claim that immigrants who come or stay here illegally are forced out of jobs and subject to immediate deportation once caught by authorities, inevitably leading them to keep silent even when treated poorly by employers.
There are roughly 500,000 migrants in the country with E-9 visas for unskilled labor jobs, according to the Ministry of Justice. The total number of migrants would be considerably higher including those who have overstayed their visas.
By Bak Se-hwan (firstname.lastname@example.org)