When 38-year-old Shakir Khan watched Ali Abdul, a manufacturing unit employee from Pakistan, within the South Korean survival drama ‘Squid Game’, it was like watching his personal story play out in entrance of his eyes.
“I felt like it was my story. It is just like what you see in the drama.” Seven years in the past, Khan left his spouse and kids in Lahore, hoping that employment in South Korea would enable him to present his household a greater life. However since he arrived in Seoul, it has been all bleak, as it’s with a whole bunch of migrant employees from South Asia.
After it was first launched on September 17, Netflix claims Squid Recreation reached the primary spot in 90 international locations, together with India, in only one month and has change into the most important present that the streaming service has ever produced. Performed by Indian nationwide Anupam Tripathi, an actor primarily based in Seoul who has had minor roles in some Korean dramas, for a lot of viewers, Ali and his tragic story have come throughout as shocking coming from South Korea.
“I want to make money,” Ali tells a fellow participant on why he needs to play the sport. Depending on him are his spouse and new child little one. An undocumented employee from Pakistan, with a harsh employer who withholds his wage for a number of months, Ali’s difficulties are compounded when he loses a couple of of his fingers whereas working on the manufacturing unit.
Only a fast notice to say Ali from Squid Recreation deserves the world. pic.twitter.com/6FSbSgIVH4
— Netflix UK & Eire (@NetflixUK) September 30, 2021
It isn’t as a lot Ali’s nationality as it’s his circumstances that resonate with Khan. Relatively, it’s the lived experiences of the 1000’s of women and men from South Asia and Southeast Asia who work throughout farms and factories in South Korea. For migrant employees like Khan, sickness, harm and demise are part of on a regular basis life within the nation.
Someday in the past, one in every of Khan’s acquaintances from India injured his hand throughout a office accident and ended up shedding 4 fingers, very like Ali within the drama. “He didn’t even get any compensation. He came to work here but suffered so much,” stated Khan. Nonetheless, Khan stated the person was one of many extra lucky migrant employees in South Korea.
This previous winter, Khan awakened one morning to listen to that his good friend working in a neighborhood manufacturing unit in Gyeonggi province had died due to the acute chilly. Most migrant employees within the nation stay on web site, and are offered lodging inside delivery containers which have been partially modified and became shelters.
“Last year, a woman from Vietnam died because of the cold inside her container. The employer found her body the next morning,” recalled Sanjay Yadav, who has been residing and dealing in South Korea for 20 years. For the Indian migrant employee group, all of whom are within the nation with out lawful paperwork, Yadav has been an indispensable useful resource and help.
The Embassy of the Republic of Korea in India didn’t reply to indianexpress.com’s requests for statistics and remark on the time of publishing this report.
Dwelling inside these areas which have few provisions for heating might be troublesome throughout South Korea’s four-month brutal winter. Though there aren’t any official figures, Yadav believes that near 70% of migrant employees in South Korea stay in containers like these, which have been transformed into one room areas with a makeshift kitchenette and a toilet.
In a single scene in ‘Squid Game’, viewers are offered a short glimpse of what life is like for these migrant employees contained in the containers. However residing inside one in every of these areas 12 months spherical is an extremely difficult expertise, one thing unfathomable for most individuals, even after they see images and movies, Yadav stated.
Among the many migrant employees within the nation, Verma stated unlawful employees from India are worse off. In 2004, South Korea applied its Employment Allow System to beat labour shortages by permitting employers to legally rent an enough variety of international employees from a gaggle of nations throughout Asia, together with Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Whereas residents from these international locations are legally permitted to work in South Korea for roughly 5 years and journey forwards and backwards between their dwelling international locations, Seoul has no such agreements with New Delhi.
When Virendra Verma first arrived in South Korea 10 years in the past, the nation’s chilly climate was accompanied by snow that reached his knees on the farm the place he was despatched to work. “I was unemployed in India and there were some agents who had told me that I would find work in South Korea. They said that after six months, I would get a work permit. They told me I would be able to travel back to India occasionally and that the work was good here,” Verma stated.
Desperation compelled Verma to take a mortgage of Rs 4,00,000 to pay the brokers and take a look at his luck in a rustic that he had by no means visited and had identified little about. “I have to support my family and educate my children. Now I am stuck here, so I have to do this.” Verma was duped into believing that he would have the ability to work in a small organisation that might enable him to ship a reimbursement dwelling and repay his loans. When he arrived, he was despatched to work on a farm, involving bodily labour that he had by no means performed earlier than.
“When I came here, I found out that they were giving educated and uneducated people the same kind of physical, backbreaking work. The migrant workers are forced to do what is called 3D work—difficult, dangerous, dirty. Compulsion makes you do this kind of work. I’ve come here and now I’m stuck.”
The time period 3-D comes from the Japanese expression ‘3Ks: kitanai, kiken, kitsui’; or ‘dirty’ ‘dangerous’ and ‘demanding’. The notion of those jobs has discouraged younger South Koreans from taking over a lot of these jobs, creating home labour shortages, the place firms have turned to international employees who’re keen to work, regardless of decrease pay and poor work circumstances.
In response to a paper by Nigel Callinan, assistant professor at Hannam College, printed in 2020, 10% of the whole variety of migrant employees within the nation had been discovered to be overstaying their visas in 2017. However there may be little information on the variety of Indian nationals who arrive in South Korea and find yourself working in farms and factories. Yadav believes that there are roughly 3,000 unlawful Indian migrant employees at current within the nation.
The prospect of a wage of something between US$1,300 and US$1,600 per 30 days, an quantity a lot under the authorized minimal wage that these labour contracts guarantee, is engaging sufficient to attract determined Indians to journey to South Korea with out applicable visas, with the information that they’re violating immigration legal guidelines, and must put up with troublesome work circumstances.
Within the 10 years that Verma has lived right here, he has missed his youngsters rising up and his dad and mom died ready to see him in particular person. “If I go back, I won’t be able to return. When I talk to my wife and children over a video call, they sometimes cry.” However the considered unemployment that he believes awaits him in India stops him from leaving his job at a manufacturing unit that packages corn syrup.
Like Khan, Verma has seen a lot struggling through the years in South Korea, that these tales make Ali’s in ‘Squid Game’ appear comparatively much less tragic. “A friend of mine was working in a livestock farm. In an accident, a tractor driver drove over my friend’s leg. Then the driver got scared and was unable to stop the machine and my friend’s second leg got caught. When he tried to stop the machine with his hand, the machine swallowed his hand as well. He lost both legs and one arm.”
“He was in the hospital for five months. There has been no progress in the processing of his case, there has been no insurance payout, the driver has not paid damages and neither has any help from the government come in.” Their unlawful standing makes it troublesome for the South Korean federal and native authorities to supply a lot help to such migrant employees, who’re largely reliant on the help of social employees.
Along with poor working and residing circumstances, migrant employees undergo from bodily and psychological well being points. For 5 to 6 days every week, many are compelled to work for 10 to fifteen hours a day, with little relaxation.
“In the case of Indians, many factory owners threaten the workers with deportation, they withhold pay, and engage them in forced labour because they are illegal,” Yadav defined. Even amongst authorized migrants, many don’t possess legitimate paperwork after they go away abusive employers, leading to immigration-related issues.
Unable to talk Korean, migrant employees who’re new arrivals face significantly troublesome conditions, left on the mercy of employers. “Some employers will promise three months salary together. Then three months later, they refuse to pay and throw the worker out. So the person is turned out onto the streets and has no place to go, no shelter, no money for food,” stated Verma.
The desperation to supply a greater life for his or her households compel them to ship 90% of their meagre salaries again dwelling. Their unlawful immigration standing additionally signifies that employers exploit Indian employees by paying half of what’s the regulation and paid to employees from different international locations. “The basic salary comes to around Rs. 1 lakh, which is a lot for them. They send everything to their families,” stated Yadav.
For years, there have been reviews of employees being subjected to bodily violence, exploitation and lengthy hours of bodily labour with no breaks, however there was little change within the on a regular basis lives of migrant employees.
Ten days in the past, a person who had arrived solely three years in the past in South Korea from Kolkata, started having chest pains whereas sleeping alone in his container. By morning, he had died. When information of the incident unfold in the neighborhood, Yadav and a few employees rushed to see what they may do. “The hospital asked for Rs 6 lakh for medical costs before releasing the body. If there is a tragedy, even the body can’t be sent back to India because it costs Rs. 4-5 lakh. So we all contributed some money to conduct his funeral here. His family couldn’t even see him,” Verma stated.
The person’s demise provides Yadav nightmares that hold him awake at evening and he hasn’t slept for one week for the reason that incident. “His family left his responsibility on me. We will immerse his ashes in the nearby river,” stated Yadav.
“There are many who come to Korea and they remain here—their bodies remain here,” stated Yadav.