GOESAN, Sept. 5 (Korea Bizwire) — For the people of Goesan County, North Chungcheong Province, the period of “gimjang” or kimchi-making in November is the most critical time of the year.
The sky-high demand from urban populations for Goesan’s specialty, salted cabbage, has the region seeing healthy yearly returns on its leafy vegetables. Just last year, the region pulled in over 30 billion won from salted cabbage sales alone as prices soared during the gimjang season.
Along with the yearly success comes backbreaking work compounded by the persistent problem of too few workhands to share in the labor. The dearth of youth in rural areas and the lack of willing laborers despite a healthy wage of 10,000 won per hour has pushed farm owners throughout North Chungcheong to look abroad for assistance.
According to the provincial government, six counties (Goesan, Danyang, Eumseong, Yeongdong, Boeun, Jincheon) implemented a seasonal work program for foreign workers in the first half of this year.
Among the six, three (Goesan, Jincheon, Eumseong) will once again open up spots for another round of seasonal work in the latter half of this year.
Goesan County’s program will welcome 65 Chinese temporary workers from its sister city of Ji’an on October 20. They will be divided into groups and dispatched to 29 different locations where they will help with the salted cabbage harvest.
Receiving a monthly salary of 1.6 million won, the visiting workers will stay for a bit less than two months, until the work program culminates on December 13.
Goesan served as a testing ground for the seasonal foreign worker program when it became the first region in the country to invite foreign workers for short-term work in 2015.
As a preemptory measure against possible abuses being perpetrated against the visiting workers, the county government stated it will hold a seminar on September 6 where it will urge farmers to be particularly mindful of human rights violations and wage problems.
A county official declared that the foreign laborers’ working conditions will be continuously monitored so that “the program will be seen as an exemplary model of a solution to farm needs for workers.”
Jincheon County is one step ahead of Goesan and is a temporary home to 36 Vietnamese and 10 Chinese workers employed on farms throughout the country.
Lina Jang (firstname.lastname@example.org)