Shocking Number of Deaths for Migrant Workers

Migrant farm hands perish at an alarming rate, especially during South Korea's bitter winter.

Shocking Number of Deaths for Migrant Workers

Image: Poster by Korean Confederation of Trade Unions protesting the poor living condition of migrant workers.  Credit: Website of KCTU.

According to Reuters, at least 522 Thais - most of whom were undocumented migrants - died in South Korea since 2015. As many as 185,000 migrant workers from Thailand who are called “phi noi” (“little ghosts”) work in South Korea, usually as farm hands with poor shelter, low pay and little access to healthcare. The deaths often occur in the winter, when the temperatures in South Korea could drop as far down as -20 degrees Celsius (-4 degrees fahrenheit) in the mountainous rural areas.

In related news, a recent death of a Cambodian migrant worker shocked the conscience of the Korean public. A 31 year old woman named Sok Heng died from liver cirrhosis in a makeshift shelter in a farm in Pocheon, Gyeonggi-do Province 경기도 포천. Sok Heng's body was found frozen inside a temporary farm structure - a greenhouse made up of a steel frame tarp, offering little protection against the elements with intermittent electricity from a generator. Gyeonggi-do Province Governor Lee Jae-myung 이재명 경기도지사 gave a statement, saying there would be a survey of shelter condition for migrant workers in the province.

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