Wednesday, June 2, 2010

영어선생,미등록이주노동자 English teacher,Undocumented migrant fitzcarl2006.08.22 07:00 조회 85

영어선생,미등록이주노동자 English teacher,Undocumented migrant fitzcarl2006.08.22 07:00 조회 85

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영어선생, 미등록 이주 노동자, English teacher, Undocumented migrant worker

Last year at Incheon Airport, at the end of July 2005, immigration officers forced me to board a flight to New York City. I tried to resist after getting past the customs check. I protested--lying down, going limp and shouting, in Korean, at the top of my lungs for somebody to help me. I screamed out that my rights were being violated.

Two Incheon immigration officers dragged me--kicked me in the ribs--and then, with the help of a security guard, loaded me onto an electric cart. One of them, seating on top of me, suffocated me--pressing on my trachea with his finger--to prevent me from shouting. I nearly passed out.

After taking me off of the cart when we arrived at the gate, they walked me down the escalator to the plane. I tried again to resist. I shouted out to the passengers on the plane, in Korean, that I needed help. People were startled. But no one came to my aid. Perhaps I should have said something in English.

The captain did come out to see what was going on. Some other immigration officers also came. (Besides the two Busan immigration officers who had to accompany me all the way to New York. They were nice enough.) I tried to plead my case, but to no avail. I had filed a petition to the Korean Human Rights Commission. They were still reviewing my case. They were deporting me illegally.

Why was this happening?

Well, maybe because:

1. I had been on a hunger strike for the past eight days; before that

2. The immigration authorities had me in detention for the past four months; before that

3. The police, in Busan, had busted me for teaching English at a hagwon without a contract.

4. I found only one translation job. I had to teach to make money; before that

5. I left New York, yet again, to go and volunteer at the 2004 Pusan International Film Festival; and before that? Well, it’s a long story.

The short story: I visited Korea for the first time in October 1998. I went to explore a new country. I went to learn a wonderful and unknown language. I had no money. So I took a job teaching English. I had experience. I did well.

I had no idea that I would come to love Korea so much that I would stay for years. I attended the Seoul National University Korean Language program for two years. I soon spoke well enough to stop working at hagwons. I found my own students and tutored them privately.

In short, I lived my life. But I wanted to become legitimate. I wanted to earn a BA. I wanted to settle down. I guess I wanted to become Korean.

It won’t be easy to return to Korea after my deportation. Teaching English was my ticket. I was starting to do translation. I have been self-employed—shaping my own destiny. But I can’t get a degree for my experience. I can’t get a visa to employ myself. (Well, maybe. If I had enough money, I could.)

Immigration laws do not favor those who have an entrepreneurial spirit but lack the necessary financial wherewithal. (I never saved up enough money. I was too busy just enjoying life.)

However, I had benefited from being an American. Everybody knows that English is big business in Korea. I could never truly appreciate what other non-American immigrants were experiencing.

I had marched in anti-war and labor demonstrations with immigrant workers; partied with them; and made friends. But I had never suffered (the three Ds: dirty, difficult and dangerous) with them until my four-month stay in the Busan and Yeosu immigration detention centers.

I learned that many employers never paid their employees’ salaries--for months, if not up to a year or longer (Korean and immigrants alike). (I hadn’t receive my pay either.)

We weren’t criminals, but were forced to stay in virtual prisons with nothing to do but watch television. Thankfully, in Yeosu, there were some books; we were visited by a church every week; after persistent demands, we were allowed to get sunshine and fresh air on a enclosed outdoor roof facility at least once or twice a week.

But hygiene was compromised. Everyone had to use the same soap. There were no wash rags provided. We had to sleep together in large cells. Many had to stay in detention (for months in many cases) in immigration until their paperwork comes through. Some waited to get paid. Many gave up and decided to leave without their salaries.

By Korean and international law, employers must pay their workers, undocumented or not, for their labor. I organized with my fellow detainees to fight for our rights. But in the end—after being ignored by the Korean Human Rights Commission, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Labor and the Immigration authorities, it all seemed hopeless. The only thing that seemed to hold out hop for us was the dream of forming a UNION. If all the workers, Koreans united with immigrant workers, found a way to band together, then we would have a real chance to make a better future.

But the Korean government definitely did not want that. They had been cracking down on organizers—including the arrest of the then elected chairman of the newly formed union for immigrant workers. (It had actually been in existence in different forms for years before that.)

Perhaps, if I had just stayed underground—just teaching privately—I would still be in Korea now. But I guess I had gotten tired of the game.

It’s worth fighting for better immigration laws for all countries. But for now it’s good to be back with my family again. I can’t wait head back to Asia. I’ll try to do things right next time. I can teach in China with a high school diploma. I wish I could in Korea. In any case, I will try to attend school and put what I have already learned to good use.

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