“Salt Farm Slaves” Scandal Shocks Korea

Recently, a story about two men enslaved at a salt farm on an island in South Jeolla Province shocked the nation, including President Park Geun-hye. The two men were rescued by a police team from Seoul after one man managed to send a letter to his mother asking for help. This incident initiated a large-scale police search operation in remote places in South Jeolla Province. President Park has asked the prosecution and police to tighten measures and look into similar incidents. A similar labor exploitation issue emerged in 2006. In the wake of the recent investigation, anti-Jeolla sentiment has been visible online.

We think of slavery as a practice of the past, an image from Roman colonies or 18th-century American plantations, but the practice of enslaving human beings as property still exists. There are 29.8 million people living as slaves right now, according to a comprehensive new report issued by the Australia-based Walk Free Foundation.


Percentage of the enslaved population in each country according to Walk Free Global Slavery Index. Source: Washington Post

From SBS:

“Salt farm slaves” have just been rediscovered

One of the buzzwords in 2006 was “slavery.”

SBS’s “Emergency SOS 24” revealed a series of “modern slavery” incidents in 2006. On May 2nd, the program aired an episode entitled “Modern slave – An old man’s 50 years of oppression.” It was a story about 73-year-old man named Lee Hong-gyu who had lived like a slave for 50 years. The perpetrator was arrested on the charges of stealing Lee’s subsidies and violating the Elderly Welfare Act. The police could not prove the charges of assault or physical abuse. The incident led the government to examine the status of subsidies for the elderly living alone.

On June 26th, the program broadcast an episode about a young man who had lived like a slave for 10 years on an isolated island. 33-year-old mentally disabled Lee Hyang-gyun was trafficked to the island. The village leader stole his wages and subsidies. Over the course of 10 years, he was only able to save ₩22,000, which enraged many citizens who watched the program. Both the old man and young man worked at salt farms.

On July 4th, the program aired a story about an enslaved daughter-in-law. When she was 25 years old, mentally disabled Lee Jeong-hye married a man who is also mentally disabled. She endured physical abuse from her mother-in-law for 10 years. Her body was covered with scars. She was working from 4 A.M. to midnight. She even had to do laundry with her hands because her mother-in-law did not allow her to use the laundry machine. Her family finally rescued her.

Eight years have passed since then. “Slavery” is once again making headlines in 2014 because of the “salt farm slaves”.

In early February, a visually impaired man managed to send a letter to his parents calling for help. His parents had not been able to contact him for 14 years. The police rescued the man who worked at a salt farm for more than a year on a remote island in South Jeolla Province. They also rescued another mentally disabled man who worked alongside him and who had been exploited for over 5 years.

In the wake of these charges, even the President has called for tighter measures, and the police implemented a wide search operation in the region for two weeks, mainly targeting salt farms, seaweed farms and livestock pens. During the operation, they found 102 missing people or runaways, 27 people without family or relatives, 88 wanted criminals, and 7 illegal aliens. The total overdue wages for the 107 of them amount to ₩1.22 billion. 49 of them are disabled. 92 out of the 107 owed past wages worked at salt farms. 24 of them are disabled.

So how many “salt farm slaves” were found in this operation? It’s hard to give an exact figure, but going by the number of victims with overdue wages, 107 people were exploited for their labor. The police explained that there were only a few cases where a missing person was forcibly trafficked to places like salt farms, exploited for labor and even locked up. Then, was the “salt farm slave” incident from last February a very rare case?

The “young male slave” in June 2006 broadcast was also found on an island in Sinan County, South Jeolla Province. The Sinan County Office issued a statement about the incident on their Facebook page. Parts of the statement are shown below.

Sinan County has 72 inhabited islands and 932 uninhabited islands. Its area is 22 times the size of Seoul city. This large county still has no police station. There are only 15 police substations and 21 security centers. There are only 95 police officers in this entire county.

People have paid no attention to these culturally and socially alienated islands so far, but now because of the news, some netizens are blaming everything on Sinan County’s administrative staff. It’s regrettable.

It’s true. However, in 2006, the public became aware of the slave-like conditions of some workers. The issue has been going on for decades. When it gets news coverage, there is a surge of attention which eventually fades. The office’s statement is somewhat irresponsible. It is not completely their fault but it is wrong that they have not shown a willingness to put an end to the old problem.

Of course, it is a very complex issue to resolve, and is tied to the alienated environment of salt farms, low wages for menial labor, the slump in the salt industry, welfare for the disabled, illegal employment agencies, etc.

The police gave a two week advance notice before implementing a search targeting 998 salt farms in Sinan, Yeonggwang, Muan, Haenam, Boseong, Wando, etc. It’s hard to tell how many more “salt farm slaves” may exist. One farm owner was arrested on charges of confinement, assault and overdue wages. 18 owners are in custody for further investigation. Some of them are likely to be arrested. A dozen more owners are also being investigated, many of whom are likely to be arrested. This is far from enough. We expect follow-up measures.

Comments from Naver:

Jeolla-do. [Jeolla Province]

ohmy****: [Responding to above]

Ilbe bugs are having a party… They are only interested in fanning regionalism against Jeolla-do rather than resolving the issue of labor exploitation itself. [Ilbe has been known for strong anti-Jeolla sentiment. Ilbe netizens have reacted very strongly to this issue, leading to an outpour of posts. The link to this Naver article was also posted in Ilbe, which encouraged “firepower support” that can often determine the dominant voice in the comment section.]


The Democratic Party’s Sinan county councilor abused a salt farm slave. Many people seem to think it was a rumor just because the news wasn’t in the headlines. Yes, it may be hard to believe but it is true. So if the Democratic Party brings in Ahn Cheol-su and changes its name, does it suddenly become a brand new party?
Article: Sinan county councilor arrested for exploiting a “salt farm slave”….The county office is busy making excuses


We need large-scale investigations.


The Democratic Party is basically a communist party! Their municipal councilor committed a shocking crime at his own salt farm. They try to cover it up when they should kneel down with their head on the ground and apologize! The Democratic Party’s slogan for human rights is just lip service for elections! They elevate the North Korean regime to a legitimate nation but they talk down our own Republic of Korea. They are the true communist party!


Where are those human rights groups? Are they silent about this because the region is home to the Democratic Party? They should stop going on about fake democracy and human rights then. The Democratic Party’s municipal councilor was involved in exploiting slave labor. He should be specially prosecuted.


Maybe salt is salty because of the slaves’ tears….


The fact that the villagers were condoning it makes it more ridiculous. Investigate properly and punish them harshly.


Jeolla people are really ruthless. How can they do this with a human mask… There was a reason why they opposed it when my relative was marrying a man from Jeolla-do.


When I was little, I watched the program “Emergency SOS”. The slavery incidents were all from the southern coasts. Can you still call yourself a human when you exploit mentally disabled people?


Sinan county is spending ₩3.2 trillion to build bridges. Transfer some of that budget into eradicating island slavery! Set your priorities straight.


A Democratic Party councilor assaulted an island slave.


There are also slaves on shrimp boats from Sinan.


Now that the problems are all out in the open, they just complain that there are too many islands and the area is too large? It was already reported in 2006. Several years have passed since then. It is regrettable that Sinan county is getting flack? Sure, how regrettable! Why can’t they just say they are sorry? Just a few months ago, someone wrote an article that jealous people were trying to defame Sinan’s salt industry. What is that person doing now?


They always yap about the legitimate government while lecturing about democracy and equality. But they were the ones running a feudal slave system. Their own democracy only for themselves.


The Democratic Party’s political roots come from the salt farm slavery.


It seems Jeolla people care more about their personal interests than fixing their faults. When the news came out, the union leader was quick to ask people not to generalize. On the Sinan county office Facebook, they say it is because they lack police stations and it is unpleasant that they get so much blame, ke ke. This is not even a trivial issue, but they do not acknowledge how big of a deal this is and fail to examine their responsibility in this mess.


So there is no single village head, town hall or humane person on those islands? There are only salt farm owners? Why do they make so many excuses…. ㅜㅜ


“They have paid no attention to these culturally and socially alienated islands so far, but now because of the news, some netizens are blaming everything on Sinan County’s administrative staff. It’s regrettable.”

This tells you about the level of their awareness, ke. For them, everything is a conspiracy against Jeolla-do. Sinan’s governor’s parents run a salt farm and the arrested Sinan councilor belongs to the Democratic Party. But the freaking Democratic Party remains silent on this. Yet, they are the ones who market “new politics”, “democracy” and “human rights” the most. Their own democracy.


Such ridiculous incidents should never happen again…


Why are people like Kim Je-dong, Lee Hyori and Yoon Do-hyun silent about this shocking slavery? [Referring to the celebrities who make social comments regarded as leftist by conservative netizens.]

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  • A Gawd Dang Mongolian

    • Boris_Da_Bengal_Tiger

      If that makes you feel that way, don’t read a history book…

      • A Gawd Dang Mongolian

        It’s not the slavery alone that gets me. It’s that South Korea’s doing it. This is crap I expected from the North.

        • Doge Wallace

          Are you a moron? It’s not *South Korea* enslaving people.

          Just like it wasn’t the U.S.A. enslaving people based on the actions of Ariel Castro.

          • A Gawd Dang Mongolian

            I mean that it’s happening IN South Korea dingbat.

          • Doge Wallace

            Then you should have said so, meathead.

          • A Gawd Dang Mongolian

            If I need to be that specific, then it doesn’t even matter anymore.

          • Doge Wallace

            “It’s that South Korea’s doing it.”

            …is not the same as

            “It’s that it’s happening in South Korea.”

            Not even about being specific.

        • Boris_Da_Bengal_Tiger

          Bad stuff like this have happened in many other nations, like that Fritzel guy in Austria for example.

          And sadly, this is the only planet we can currently live on, so there isn’t much choice.

  • Clay Farqua

    No big surprise. Korea Sparkling. Most Koreans see black people as sub human. It disgusts me. They have a slave mentality as they were for so long under the yoke of the Chinese, Mongols, Khitans and of course the Japanese. But the Koreans MUST not then enforce their slave like thinking on others. When a Korean sees a proud black man who thinks only to shackle hime. For shame…..
    Slavery is NOT ok Korea!

    • wrle

      you must have been a target of racism in korea and I am deeply sorry that you had to experience such a terrible thing. Koreans are not used to foreigners as much as western countries but things are changing fast and they are accepting multiculturalizm. They often use the term “globalization” for it. Hopefully things will improve more in the near future.

    • Paulistano

      I think you have some prejudice against Korea my friend, you are not different with koreans that you so criticise. Last time I checked, EVERY people comitted slavery, including black people in Africa. Oh, surely I was surprised, but South Korea has the lowest percentage in East and Southeast Asia, but no It’s Korea that has slavery problem…

    • Paulistano

      And how the hell Korea has slavery mentality??? As far as I know, Korea never conquered a country in their history, so they never enslaved any people. very diferent with chinese (and japanese, but Japan only went nuts in Imperial era) that enslaved a ton people (ex: Tibet).

      And, by your logic, It’s the same to say that black people in America have the desire to enslave white people??? ” The black people MUST not then enforce their slave like thinking on others in America. Right??

    • chucky3176

      Hey idiot, look at the map. All I see are all the African countries in red color. Guess where most of the worst forms of slavery are practiced? Why, it’s Africa – Africans enslaving other Africans, where slavery wouldn’t even make news. South Korea has much higher standards of human rights, that’s why these kinds of few isolated incidents (compared to what’s happening in Africa, these are tame) in some remote islands, become news because they’re considered unacceptable.

      • Clay Farqua

        You sit at the table of the OECD so why do you care to compare yourself to the third world. Typical attitude of a korean “well they do it too”. This proud black man thinks that if YOU tried to enslave me you would regret it.

        • chucky3176

          Why would I try to enslave you? I doubt you are black anyway. And the stats show, this is an isolated incident, compared to most countries.

          • Clay Farqua

            Because you just cant handle a black man walking proudly, can you? Your jealousy overwhelms you. Your instinct is to shackle the brother. Well not this time. And you don’t believe i’m black? What, you think all of us black folk are picking cotton or roaming the jungles we dont have the ability to operate at a computer? Huh? You believe we dont have the right to access the world wide web? Thats just your fantasy. Well im here to tell you, the slavery in Korea must end.

          • chucky3176

            You have some serious inferiority complex issues mixed in with slave mentality and even paranoia. Get some help dude. This thread is about South Koreans enslaving some other South Koreans. Why did blacks come into this, I’ve no ideal, but try to stick to topic.

          • Clay Farqua

            Dont try and steal the phrases i introduced. Are you Korean? Then you have a slave mentality. Thats fine but please dont force it on others. Its not fair. You are the offspring of a slave culture and it infects your mind and actions. We know Japan treated you poorly, but that doesnt give you the right to then enslave others.


            The offspring of proud Nubian Royalty

          • lol

            BUHAHAHAHA!!! you just lost what ever credibility you had left with the “The offspring of proud Nubian Royalty” line…

            Thanks for making my day.

            Signed the King of England!

          • Yaminah Jamison

            He probably has secret money somewhere that he inherited and want to share with us but we have to open a bank account with like $3000 in it and give him the account number so he can deposit it in, silly!

          • lol

            Oh snap! my bad!

            I should have known better… darn my luck… now I’ll never get a chance to bask in his grand Nubian Highness’s generosity!

            It’s a good thing I’m the King of England!

            Thanks for the chuckles!

          • Yaminah Jamison

            I’m off to win $1, 000, 000, 000, 000 after sending $500 to claim it. But first I gotta give my bank my online password and checking info. Such a pain.

          • lol

            He can’t… he’s obviously retarded… most likely one of those “Nubian Prices” that thinks albino’s have magical powers and rape is “ok” only if it’s “The natural” kind…

        • Sillian

          Lol. Obvious troll is obvious indeed.

          • Clay Farqua

            The world that doesnt fit your parameters doesnt make me a troll. For your dream or fantasy is my nightmare.

          • Paulistano

            Lack of maturity is a serious thing here. Admin, please, he is trolling clearly, are trolling allowed here??? Even my dog can see this!!!

          • Clay Farqua

            Hey you! Stop that. Im not a troll. Thats racist. That is racist!

      • harvz

        Africa isn’t a country. The rights in DRC aren’t going to compare to, say, South Africa.

    • Doge Wallace

      Obvious troll is obvious.

    • lol

      LOL you need to put your helmet back and get back to your special needs class… your teacher is going be pissed off that you left the room… again…

  • wrle

    Please note though that south korea has the lowest percentage of existing slavery per population in east asia. I don’t understand koreabang sometimes when they focus on relatively isolated incidents like this. This news is definitely shocking.

    • UserID01

      They aren’t specifically focusing on negative news; Koreabang translates the most popular stories coming from South Korean news outlets. So whether they’re good or bad, it’s the ones that generate the most discussion and/or comments that make it to Koreabang.

    • Remi

      Don’t get suggested by this map from the article as the whole Central Europe is worse than China for example which makes me asking for the crebility and standards made by this fundation to qualify someone as ‘slave’ (this means – work without compensation). I don’t see it here nor I heard about that here in Central Europe but heard about farms in Italy, Germany, Spain where they deprived immigrants from their belongings and documents and ordered them work without any compensation aside from small amount of food and drinks.

  • Bryan Cheron

    This is truly horrific. I can’t think of any possible means of fully compensating the victims, but severe punishment of the perpetrators would be a good start.

  • Paulistano

    How the **** Japan has enslavered population? Can someone explain me? I understand if Korea is low, but Japan???

    • wrle

      surprisingly japans enslavement population in on par with south korea and europe. From my guess its probably because of the yakuza? or perhaps criminal organizations. I don’t know.

      • Paulistano

        I think it’s hard to believe that Yakuza can do this damage, but maybe you are right.

        • Chucky3176

          According to the US State Department, Japan is a second tier, level 2 country in terms of combatting human trafficking. It has a dismal record in smuggling in foreign sex workers who are abused by the Japanese companies in slave like conditions.

          • Paulistano

            A source of your information would be welcome, Chucky.

            And please, don’t kill me, I love creppy dolls!!! hehehehe

          • chucky3176

            JAPAN (Tier 2)

            “Japan is a destination, source, and transit country for men and women subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking, and for children subjected to sex trafficking.”


            This report divides all countries in tiers. Tier 1 is the least number of abuses. Tier 2 countries are bad abusers. Tier 3 countries are the worst of the worst abusers.

            Based on these figures, the world map shown above is pretty accurate in my opinion.

          • Paulistano

            Very good source, thank you Chucky, didn’t know that Japan was in this situation.

          • Rutim

            It’s more like Switzerland *rated in the same category as Japan) – lots of foreigners who want to live a better life being used as slaves (not like in South Korea – on remote islands where no one sees it and it’s not being brought up by the medias all the times it happens). Usually it has to do to with ‘sexual slavery’, not physical work on farms or factories.

          • Paulistano

            Pure fallacy! Germany is rated in Tier 1 and everbody wants to live there too. The result depends purely on government reaction and effort. Oh, that’s not excuse to use slaves using ”It’s normal because everbody wants to live here”, and It sound pretty arrogant .

            If Korea doesn’t have this problem, good for them, one headache less. Didn’t koreans like pure blood and bla bla bla? I guess they are happy that media don’t appoint them all the time. It’s their problem anyway.

            I had the impression that you classified “sexual slavery” less worse thant physical work. Me and more than a billion of women (and men) would disagree with you. Sexual slavery is terrible as physical work, Rutim. Been fucked up every day inumerous time would be terrible.

          • InGwangju

            I would be cautious about saying Jeolla do people are communist or supportive of North Korea. From my experience these terms are used to undermine this area in a false way. I have lived in Gwangju, South Jeolla for 4 years and have never heard a Korean talk supportingly of North Korea or Communism. It would be a serious thing to talk positively of these things anywhere in South Korea I think.

          • chucky3176

            No Rutim, you’re not going to get away with that bull shit. Read the report, really. Japan is tier 2 for a good reason, many third world foreign laborers have their rights taken away and treated as slaves in Japan. The difference between Japan’s tier 2 and Korea’s tier 1 lies in the fact that Japanese government and media largely ignore the problem and never report them – leading to false belief that there is nothing wrong in japan, while Korea has done a far more to recognize there’s a problem, and try to improve on the situation. In Japan, Fukushima nuclear power plants fooled homeless Japanese into working there without protection from radiation, and without legal pay. What has the Japanese government done? Nothing because it was the government abusing those workers.

      • Chucky3176

        Look at the map again, Japan is rated worse than South Korea.

  • Paulistano

    There is something that is bugging me. Is there some kinda of regional hate in Korea? I notice that some (many) koreans dislike Jeolla-do people. What I know Jeolla-do region caused many rebellions against japanese rule and korean dictatorship, at least, thats what history in internet says, but isn’t this a good thing?

    • chucky3176

      Jeolla province has been typically a left wing politically, an hotbed of anti-government political activism. In the last election, 98% of the voters voted for the Democratic Party, or the radical semi-North Korean party, the Democratic Labor Party. Traditionally anti-government, the south western provinces have always trailed the rest of the nation in development and industrial activity because they were purposely left behind, in favor of other provinces. Therefore the resentment between the provinces that are favored versus the less favored Jeolla provinces have been high. This used to be a big problem maybe up to ten years ago, and things died down since then. But time to time old feelings may return with isolated incidents like these.

      If you haven’t guessed already, the 1980 massacre at Gwangju by the dictator then, Chun Doo Hwan, probably also had something to do with regional prejudice.

      • Paulistano

        Well I think I can understand what are you saying because Brazil has equal problems but a little more soft side. But one thing I can’t understand is how It’s possible some south koreans support North Korea. North Korea is not even left wing, It’s a totaritalism with cult of personality state. You said that they are left wing supporting liberty and freedom but North Korea is just exactly the opposite!!! It’s ulttery clear that South Korea is much better than North Korea.

        I’m not gonna say you were contradictory because I know very well left wing politicians, my country is becoming traditionally left wing emblem with social programs (not a bad thing per se, but VERY flawed in the way it’s happening now) but with a strong populism, which is a bad thing,

        I know regionalism prejudice too. In my country, many people dislike Northeast and North regions because they are poor apparently and they have weird and irritant accent. Besides that, southeast and south are much more advanced economically and socially, people argue that there are many poor people in southeast (particually São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro) because many people from northeast started to come down and built favelas. There are radicals from southeast says that Brazil would be much better state if Northeast was aparted from the country, even the HDI would be higher because uneducated people wouldn’t come here thus lowering social inequality.
        Historically speaking, south region was the black sheep of the family, they always revolted when they could, not surprising because south region is white with italian and german descedents and they thought was a little more ahead socially speaking.

        But one thing I’m curious: Brazil is HUGE while S. Korea is tiny, how can koreans have regionalism in a so small place? Maybe It’s a korean thing.

        • chucky3176

          This only shows that regionialism isn’t just a Korean phenomenon. Brazil is also not only huge, but it’s multi-ethnic so it’s understandable the divide. But believe it or not, regionalism in Korea has always been there for such a geographically small country. There are also a lot of different and distinct regional dialects and distinct accents. By the way, the number of radical North Korean style left wingers are small in number but they’re the loudest because the leaders are taking orders and being paid off by North Korea. Most of Jeolla people are not radical, just democratic party supporters. The traditional Korean stereotypes of the Jeolla people are redneck country bumpkins or gangsters who are criminally inclined. Jeolla accents are often made fun of. Think of the how the Americans view the hill billies from southern United States – rednecks with southern accents, racists, etc.

          • bigmamat

            If I remember correctly a number of years ago Brazil had their own problems with slave camps. Large farms out the country would bring in labor and basically enslave them to work the farms. Many of them were in remote locations which made it very difficult to police.

          • Paulistano

            Slavery still exist in Brazil unfortunately, but the good news is the country is catching up. Slavery is associeted here in VERY poor regions with agricultural states like Amazonia and center-east regions.

            And the only remote location where the country can’t reach is Amazon. People think that Brazil is a big jungle and a wild place with full of indians and dangerous animals, but no, the government has plenty acessbility, places are poor here because administration states are fucked up, literally!!

          • Paulistano

            So Jeolla-do is a Texas in Korea. Kinda interesting..

          • chucky3176

            Texas is rich and powerful, I would not say Texas. It’s more like Missouri, Tennesse, Mississippi, Alabama, even Georgia. Poorer, less developed states with fewer manufacturing jobs.

          • Paulistano

            Ah okay,much better analogy I think, but well north americans have prejudice against south region, including Texas. Texas can be strong, but still a weight to USA economically speaking.

        • Arendelle

          That is what even Koreans themselves feel wonder about.. Hostility toward different regions do existed throughout Korean history but it became serious problem when politicians used regionalism for their purpose after 1970s- that is industrialization era. Ex-president Park Junghee mainly developed Gyeongsang province (which is his home province) as it had geographical advantages. But the interesting fact is, he was supported the most by Jeolla province in his first election. It is said that Korean polictics are in Southwest vs Southeast aspect but they can’t be equal, as the population of Jeolla is 5million whereas that of Gyeongsang is twice. Anyway, I didn’t know that Brazil too has regionalism.

    • RegisterToPost

      Yesterday this idiot Jeolla moron walked by me. He said something to me in his unintelligible Jeolla babble. I lost it and called him what he was, a worthless slaveowning salt farmer. Told that moron. I hate Jeolla people so god damn much.

  • bigmamat

    Nobody is going to like this but hear me out. I think Korea does have a bit of a “slave mentality” for lack of a better expression. The rigid top down hierarchical society structure makes it easier for people to dehumanize those at the bottom of the social strata. I also think that average middle class Koreans except a lot of indignities in their working environments that westerners traditionally do not have to endure. The average middle class working man has no legal recourse to fight being abused in so many ways by his employer. Whether it be long hours without overtime or forced after work smooze parties. In Korea elevating your social status means so many things and foremost, freedom. The higher you are in the pecking order the more freedom you can enjoy, or the more people you can abuse depending on your inclinations.

    • Paulistano

      Well, I think you described partially right about korean hierarchy, but this is not even close with ”slave mentality”, this is just more about counfucian inheritance. All East Asia countries have some of this trait. I think you must review abou what is ”slave mentality” concept. It’s is strange because you speak as if you know about Korea, but you don’t know about basic cultural things.

      I live with many japanese here in my country and I have to say that in big J-corporations are not very different what you described. Status and hierarchy are very regid and hard to change even in japanese colonies where is pretty condense.

      • bigmamat

        Didn’t I say at the beginning for lack of a better expression. And please tell me what “basic cultural things” don’t I know about, I’m curious.

        • Paulistano

          If you don’t where and how to shoot, DON”T shoot!! In a political or scientific academic debate, you would be eaten alive if you don’t know or can’t express your point. But, this is internet, you can troll until death that nobody will do anything.

          Now, for the second statement:

          1-”The rigid top down hierarchical society structure makes it easier for people to dehumanize those at the bottom of the social strata.” This can be true for any country, any political system, any company, but no, It’s a korean problem, oh my god!!!

          2-” I also think that average middle class Koreans except a lot of indignities in their working environments that westerners traditionally do not have to endure. The average middle class working man has no legal recourse to fight being abused in so many ways by his employer” Of course that abused employee can open a legal process against his employer, I don’t know where do you made that up. Samsung, LG, Hyundai and Daewoo are maybe exceptions because they are too big, but hell even government can fight them. Now, while it’s true that asians companies are more rigid in their hierarchy, it’s pure ilusion to think that western companies are sociable with theirs workers. Do you really believe that a MC Donald employee can stand up against his boss? Many Western companies adopt Toyotism model, that it gives to proletarian a false sense of colaboration because he believes that hierarchy is horizontal. Pure Garbage!!!! The boss still the boss and the employee is the sheep, you can grant bonus and extra things in his salary but not only his still a sheep, but a happy fool sheep.
          Another thing is the Western companies love to say that they are prime example of how intra-relations should work, but they just forget that the low dirty jobs are sent here in Asia (China, Thailand, Malasia, Vietnam…), while the soft service like financial part is taken by them.

          3-”In Korea elevating your social status means so many things and foremost, freedom. The higher you are in the pecking order the more freedom you can enjoy, or the more people you can abuse depending on your inclinations.” Again, this can be applied in any individual in any country, as you know money=status in capitalism. I’m tired too see rich people here in my country spit in other people with their arrogant face.

          I can give you one real example: A ESL teacher in Korea can complain about his excessive work in school, because he stays there even in weekneds. This teacher gains 2400 US dollars per month, perfectably suficcient to live with decent codition, if you said that this ambient of work was harsh I would agree, but pre-slavery? I’ll tell you what is slavery: Slavery It’s when a employee in coal mine in China gains 30-50 cents per hour and if he complain the boss put another person in his place, that’s slavery. Pretty commom there.

          Don’t be fooled about western companies, thay just put flowers in their hipocrisy while asians companies are more bitter and more direct, but the essence is exactly the same in all capitalist companies.

          • bigmamat

            I really don’t feel like reading War and Peace. I will say this, the entire world has been enslaved by large banks and corporations. We are all now just drones, human resources to be used and disposed of at the whims of a few hundred people who control all the assets and resources. We are all pretty much slaves. If people don’t understand what it means when we’re told that 85 people control more money than 3.5 billion people then we’re all just to blind, stupid, or worn out to care.

          • Falso hater

            Slavery mentality? wow I read a lot of your comments on this web sites and every single fucking time I felt you knew nothing about Korea, nor any of North eastern asian countries and their cultures and that really disgusted me so bad.

            Ok I give you a stereotypical impression I felt from you. You are exactly like the type of woman who is 35 yrs-old feminist having an english lit or history major degree. Not good at math or science. Trying to be cynical, intelligent and neutral.

          • bigmamat

            I’m almost 57 and I’ve lived through a couple of bubble economies and now the “great recession”. I’m a capitalist but not a “free marketeer”. Of course I’m a feminist, I’m a woman, who wants to be treated like a 2nd class citizen. Doesn’t mean I don’t like men or that I don’t understand the pressures put on them by societies either. I was an idealist probably because my values were formed during the 60s and 70s. Back when Americans were talking about cleaning up the environment, ending hunger and poverty, curing disease, exploring space and the oceans, educating everyone, you know more nobler things than just dreaming of being rich. Now it seems everyone is nothing more than a frustrated millionaire. They listen to politicians, religious leaders and other moneyed shills tell them they’d be one too if only for the brown people, the gay people, women or that other religion. So we blame it on each other because our wages are lower, hours are longer and we struggle to pay for housing, education, and health care. I’m not worried about your impression of me. I don’t give a rat’s fucking ass what you think I am. I’m 56 years old. I’ve held some kind of job since I was 15. I’ve been at the one I’m in now for 39 years. I’ve raised two kids as a single mother because my high school sweetheart became an alcoholic and I left after 17 years. I was an executive on my local union board for 12. I’ve been a community activist and volunteer. I vote in every election and primary. I don’t have much longer to live even if I’m lucky because 56 years went by a lot longer than I expected. I did want to see us reach at least a couple of those goals I held so dear for most of my life. Seems like an impossibility at this point. So you can forgive me I hope if I say FUCK YOU. I don’t care what you think I am.

          • Falso hater

            well I feel sorry for your story, but that doesn’t mean you can release stress on posts you don’t know well, and leave a comment possibly hurts someone else’s feeling. Stop being hysterical and pessimistic but just relax. I recommend you to quit this website because it seems this website reinforces your negative feelings.

          • bigmamat

            I’m not hysterical and I’ve tried extremely hard not to be pessimistic. As I said before I have been a union organizer most of my working life. I have seen the systematic attack on worker’s rights that has been driven by large corporations and their bought and paid for political puppets for years. I have been out there in the trenches fighting the good fight for a long time and we have LOST. Forty years ago in the US 30% of the workforce was organized in a union. Now it’s down to 7%. of course this isn’t the only thing driving the world into such extremes of economic inequality but in my country it is a huge factor. The modern Korean economy is modeled after the US and it’s no small wonder why Koreans may be experiencing some of the same issues.

          • Falso hater

            I am sorry to tell you this, but the very system what you just mentioned above actually made the world better if you look at the absolute values. Even though inequality got worsened, poverty rate went down in global level compared to the early1950s. Mcdonald part-timer in 2015 enjoys better life than teachers in 1950s

            Well.. back then only rich people could afford personal computers but now we can use our smartphones instead of computer, mp3 and radios and so on. It is unfortunate to those people who are not skilled for the newly emerging industries, but we don’t need simple labor that much now. Automation factory and robots produce much faster and more efficient than human workers.

            And such development lowered the cost of production. People want to blame on the current system and rich people because they don’t enjoy their wealth. In other words, those pessimistic people are saying “This is not enough for us.”

          • hsp

            I don’t want to get sucked into bigmamat’s “we’re all drones” argument, but I’ll simply put in my two cents about your points.

            1. Yes, you are very correct in stating that hierarchy exists in every country, society, and culture. However, you have to take into consideration that Korea takes hierarchy (in particular ages (Hyung/Noona) and professional hierarchy (Sunbae/Hoobae) much more seriously. Abuse of hierarchical powers that happen in the United States at least from media, personal experience, and hearsay, is usually pay docking and such. There is really no abuse of human rights that happens which can be considered widespread. Yes, cases occasionally do pop up where it is covered by mass or local media and do pose a serious threat to worker’s rights. However, Korea is very different in this case. Workers endure sexual harassment, bullying, and many other unpleasant things in the work and even school environment from nearly every direction. This leads to the vicious cycle and thinking of “I was bullied, so now that I am the top dog of some people, time to have some fun.” Koreabang covers these stories occasionally, but it is a huge social problem and causing a rise of NEETs and other societal problems. To say we have the same problem in the West is not quite doing the problem justice. Yes, as seen by the graph, countries within Africa and even China have it much worse. But for a country that claims itself to democratic and a top ten GDP nation to be still housing such hierarchical systems is absolute bull****.

            2. Legal processes in South Korea do not work like in the West. Believe it or not, even statuses take a large role in opening cases. A lot of grievances against employers by employees are thrown out by courts and legal officials who oversee these cases. They chalk it up to culture and really don’t take it into consideration. For instance, in the West, sexual harassment is the biggest no-no you can probably do on the job (besides straight up murder). In South Korea, these things are smoothed over and the workers bear it in silence. I’ve seen it enough times myself. You seem intent that everything always runs around money, which is true in most countries, but not South Korea. Currently in South Korea, there are many manual job openings which pay three to four times of what temp jobs pay. However, college graduates would rather go jobless than be seen working those jobs. Status is everything.

            3. This I agree completely. But once again, point 1 and 2 that Koreans do take it too far.

            As for your example, an ESL teacher is not a good example of the basic worker in Korea. As an ethnic Korean who was raised in the States and worked in Korea for a short period, the working conditions in the West in general is heaven in comparison. I do laugh silently every time a friend or acquaintance comes back from Korea after teaching and claim how these working situations simply don’t exist. Do you think they (or even in this case, we, I must confess) press our culture onto a foreigner? Do we expect you to understand how a Hoobae/Sunbae system works? It’s not even a question of personal ability, such as how good your Korean or understanding of culture is. As a nation that considers itself “a one race nation,” the culture is very exclusive. You don’t see the gritty underside of the work environment the same way we do. Sure, you may be asked to go drinking after work, but would you really want to bring along a foreigner to drink together after a hard days work, where cultural understanding and language problems may arise? I haven’t heard even one complaint from the foreigners I know who lived/are living in Korea that complain about after work drinking problems. Just being spared from that is a huge blessing.

            Also, slavery isn’t completely dependent on the wages one receives, or the type of dangerous manual labor you do. Slavery is the abuse of human rights stated by the UN or other humanitarian global foundations. It doesn’t matter if you make $4,000 USD a month, but if you’re still being treated like garbage, it might not be a textbook case of slavery, but it does fall into a rather gray area. Some people might just say to quit, but its not that simple taking Korean society and culture into the equation.

            tl;dr: There’s a reason so many Koreans want to study and work abroad in the West.

    • chucky3176

      This incident is about exploiting mentally ill and homeless people. Most of these victims didn’t even know what was happening to them. You’re taking this out of context. Things like this could happen anywhere, even in countries that are not hierarchial.

      • bigmamat

        Agreed. It could. Out of the 107 only 24 were disabled. So the others were just homeless. I still don’t understand how you think I took anything out of context. Of course this can happen anywhere and it does. People prey on weaker less fortunate people all the time. However, this problem seems to be pretty wide spread throughout this farming community. It appears to include local leadership as well. I’m not saying that this is representative of Korea as a whole but I am saying that Koreans have a society where abusive business practices by employers go relatively unchallenged. What I’m really saying is that all Koreans are subject to abusive treatment by employers in a system where the employer sets all the rules.

        • chucky3176

          Sure, and the rest of them included 88 wanted criminals, and 7 illegal aliens. Not the type of people who have any choice of anything. My point is, these people could not stand up for their rights, even if they wanted to. That’s why they were exploitable. No Korean worker with a normal situation would put up with that kind of labor abuse, nor any Korean would consider those slave like conditions as acceptable. But I could see foreign laborers working for salt farms and South Korean long range trans ocean fishing boats putting up with those kind of conditions. If your theory is right, then does that mean those foreign workers have the slave mentality to put up with these conditions controlled by their Korean employers? I don’t think so.

  • Boris_Da_Bengal_Tiger

    There are many things you could bash Korea (or any other country) on, but this is something that could happening anywhere, such as the Frizel thing in Austria, or the Sex gangs in the midlands, UK or that guy who kidnapped and kept 3 women in his basement for 30 years in the US. They shock us because they are rare and we think “how can this happen in our/such a developed country?”

    • Thor

      But those kidnapped people are not even remotely related to the subject. A better comparison would be the illegal immigrants everywhere working for hardly anything, with passports being stolen and so on. BTW a huge lot of them are exploited by their own community members who came first.

      When it’s a national exploiting a illegal immigrant it’s more likely to be a farmer as the ones this article is about.

      • Boris_Da_Bengal_Tiger

        I am just saying shit like this and other bad stuff happen all over. I am not saying the incidents are the same or comparing them. It just shocks more when it happens in a developed nation.

  • Arendelle

    This problem was known for quite many years but the issue outbroke and gained public attention about one month ago by an incredible news. A disabled slave could miraculously escape by sending a letter to his parents in Seoul. (The picture below is a real letter that he wrote.) The unbelievable thing is that the barber shop where he wrote the letter was only 70m far from the police office. Local police and civil servants do know about the existence of slaves, but they have neglected in taking measures at all. I can’t understand why this hot topic is updated by now while other stories which I haven’t even seen in Korean websites was posted in Koreabang.

    • Boris_Da_Bengal_Tiger

      What does the letter say?

  • meme

    im ok with it

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