Disabled Sold as Slaves on Fishing Boats, Gang Arrested

Man explains he did not receive any payment during his 8 years as a slave

Korean netizens expressed shock and outrage when news of disabled people being taken from their families and used as slaves in various locations around Jeolla was revealed by the maritime police.

Tens of mentally-disabled people were sold into forced labour on farms on remote islands around North and South Jeolla provinces after having been invited to “earn some money”. Most were put on fishing boats, suffering forced labour as slaves, and were exploited for money. One of the victims had been worked to the bone for almost thirty years, and had never received a penny. When the article was reposted on the popular internet portal site Daum it attracted hundreds of comments within a matter of hours.

The article noted that on April 9, the Korean maritime police arrested a gang of eleven people; six were detained on suspicion of kidnapping and enticement, including a Mr. A (47), while a further five people, including a Mr. B (45) were taken into custody on suspicion of aiding and abetting the crimes of Mr. Lee.

According to the maritime police, Suspect A and others operated a travel inn in the city of Gunsan, North Jeolla, telling the mentally-disabled and homeless they encountered: “We’ll give you food, somewhere to sleep, and we’ll help you to earn money,” and after forcing them to work on fishing boats and outlying islands in the Mokpo region, they are suspected of conning them out of their earnings over a period of decades.

Slave worker seen on fishing boat

It is also understood that Mr. A’s elder sister, Ms. C (57), organised the mentally-disabled into a prostitution ring, and took money for the sexual activities therein.

Among the victims, Mr. D (47), who has the mental ability of a ten year-old child, had been performing forced labour for almost thirty years, since he was nineteen years of age, yet he had never received a single penny.

After joining insurance schemes for death and injury in the names of the disabled victims, it was seen that Mr. A had meticulously planned for his son to collect the insurance money.

The police investigation also revealed that of the hundred disabled victims administered by Mr. A’s parents, over seventy had been sold to fishing boats and islands around the Mokp’o region, while the remaining thirty, whose mental ages were very young and who had nowhere to go, were still being used as slaves.

Coastal police explaining how to bust the criminal ring exploiting vulnerable disabled people

The maritime police also announced that following a psychological evaluation of the disabled victims, it was revealed that their social ages were on average 9.5 years, while their social intelligence was on average 19.8 years, and that their adaptive reasoning towards daily life was remarkably low.

On the one hand the maritime police are expanding their investigations to see if there are further illegal operations of this kind around Kunsan and Mokpo, on the other hand, around April 20 which is the Korean “Day for People with Disabilities,” they are also scheduled to crack down on the state of human rights violations on boats and outlying islands.

Korean netizens seem united on this issue, with most expressing surprise that this kind of slavery could have existed, unhindered, on South Korean soil for several decades. Many are questioning whether or not the police had been harbouring information on the criminal activities of the gang without acting upon it, with strong criticisms emerging of the manner in which the investigation might have been conducted. But all are extremely sympathetic to the plight of the disabled citizens who had been deprived of their freedom. This is not the first instance of disabled people being abused in recent times, such with the Dogani scandal and the rape of deaf students in their dormitories covered by koreaBANG.

Comments from Daum:

넙쭉이:

When you’re born with a disabled body, even to go on living is difficult and depressing, but those people, I really wonder about the minds of those people who did those inhumane actions…Please, if there is a god, rain your thunder down on them. Amen.

김성완:

I guess there are a lot of those fucking beasts who wear human masks all over the country…Arrest them, get back all the overdue earnings, and punish them to the full extent of the law… put other things aside; this is the most urgent business.

춘생미미:

It’s unacceptable if they ever release these criminals…People who buy and sell humans must be punished with a severe sentence…It is unthinkable that they shouldn’t be locked up. And I also think that those who knew the situation but still made [the victims] work should be heavily punished, too. It seems to me that though this kind of thing has been going on for more than ten years, the fact that it is still happening means that even the judiciary can’t get away with this..Especially the police bureau involved…the police working in the police station, if you can call them that. It seems that even the people working in the regional office had no reason not to know about this…Doesn’t everyone in these island communities stick together?I want them to take this opportunity to investigate thoroughly.

푸른애벌레:

If they don’t lock them up for doing this, then they’ll just go on doing the same thing…Such a shocking article.

무위자연:

And since it’s election season, [this story] will get embellished on the main sites of the Choson Ilbo, the ChungAng Ilbo and the Dong-A Ilbo. Those wankers in the conservative press who try to use this incident in the election also have serious issues

블루블루:

Though they are openly using slaves on the islands of Jeolla-do, if the citizens were only using people from their own home town, they definitely wouldn’t be able to close their eyes and overlook it, would they?

소패왕 손책:

For the most part I guess this kind of thing could only happen in Jeolla-do…The islands of our country are mostly on the western and southern coasts…in particular I guess most of them are concentrated around Jeolla-do.

탁주김:

You’re telling me the maritime police didn’t know about this?

세무정진맨:

No…how come the police didn’t get this… This isn’t the kind of story that is put aside quietly on an average day, is it? They sucked everything out of them they could and now it’s just unacceptable….Those fucking bastards

요술겅주:

Those useless fuckers….To [do that] to those weak people ㅜㅜ How great it would be if there was a world in which this kind of article didn’t appear ㅜㅜ

mikido:

You who are involved with this [investigation], please, please, drown these people in the sea. Should this kind of people have their human rights protected? As they’ve lived crushing the human rights of others, if we consider their rights and let them live, then Korea becomes a difficult place for disabled people to live. Even the fact that they were born with inadequacies is a crime, but are those who took those poor people and treated them like dogs really human? If I were to become president, I would certainly, absolutely, try to completely clear this human waste. Don’t like your human rights. Only those who respect human rights can have their human rights respected. This kind of fundamental right to live can’t be protected, that’s why Korea is like this.

jinny:

Jeolla-do=Chosun-jok [increased tension after the Suwon torso murder incident]=Nips=commies=Democratic United Party.

Northbound:

Lock them away for life and make them work as slaves! Are those bastards human? They’re beasts. All of you victims whose bodies are disabled, I hope that you can go back to the embrace of your families as soon as possible, and I pray sincerely that your painful wounds will heal.

바람소:

The people who “bought” and used the mentally and physically disabled people did so even though they knew those bastards. Even those twats on the islands themselves should all be sent to the slammer for life.

레드존:

They should arrest the people who were employing [the victims] too, and impose huge fines on them, and make them do serious time. Just because people live on the islands doesn’t make them good people.

울라라라라:

I can pretty much guarantee that they’ll have parole for a fine of a few pennies…Shitty Dogpublic of Korea…

죠슈에:

The real problem is the fact that even though the citizens and the officials know what’s going on, they pretend they don’t

dirtyworld:

Crazy! Those bastards won’t be detained, they say?

옹기장이:

I also live in Jeolla-do, but this is too much…Jeolla-do’s kitchen garden…the Democratic United Party were shouting about welfare, what the fuck! Is this for people’s welfare? It really pisses me off.

홍길동:

The slave incident is mostly in the left side villages !

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  • Matt

    When I saw this on the front page, I literally assumed I was on chinaSmack. I was shocked when I realized, about a second later, that I was on koreaBang…

  • Brett Sanbon

    Im surprised that the majority of the netizens’ comments arent hatefilled remarks about Jeolla people.

    Im also surprised but not shocked over this news. Handicapped people still have it way too hard in Korea.

    I say lock the people involved up for life. Sell the vessels and homes of everyone that knew about what was going on and give all the money to the slaves (possibly give them accountants too) or their parents.

    I still have a question though. Who sold these people to begin with? Did their parents or was it a hospital? Didnt see it in the post but im on the subway sandwiched between and 아저씨 and 대학생 and dont want to read or write anymore.

  • Tiffany

    Incredibly sad. May God bless these abused people. I wish these things did not happen in theworld and that evil greedy people failed before their misdeeds.

  • blacksnowdrop

    More incompetence from the Police and shocking disregard for human rights! I’m disgusted…

  • tigresse

    The real issue here is Korean social attitudes about the mentally and physically disabled, used as a means to justify slavery. Slavery can never be justified, for any reason whatsoever. The fact that so many people were complicit in this, from locals, to recruiters to the police, and did nothing, in fact profited from their suffering, just underscores the need to treat this as a human rights issue. A country that doesn’t respect the rights of all of its citizens to live with dignity, is a country that still has a long way to go towards improving its human rights record. The one good thing, is that these cases are now coming to light, shocking the public, and hopefully, influencing them to act and pressure governments at all levels to find, punish, and educate society about this evil.

  • Koreans have a severely screwy attitude towards the mentally and physically disabled. I lived in Korea for four years and I NEVER once saw anyone with Down’s Syndrome or any such condition and saw only two blind people. The attitude of most Koreans was “they don’t exist” or “out of sight, out of mind” if they ever did admit the existence of such people. Most were shunned and hidden. It’s attitudes like that which enabled some to treat their own citizens as slaves for so long.

    I had an adult student who suffered an injury as a child. He had a perfectly functioning brain, was intelligent and capable, but his career options were limited because people viewed him as “crazy” or “less than normal” simply because of a physical disability in one leg. He was also treated by his coworkers as if he were a draft dodger, despite the fact that he was physically incapable of doing military service when he was younger. Small wonder he wanted to learn English and emigrate. I hope he succeeded.

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