SEOUL, Jul. 24 (Korea Bizwire) — Four died and nine were injured in a car accident in which a van overturned on a road in Samcheok, Gangwon Province, on Monday.
Among the 16 passengers in the vehicle, nine of them were foreign workers. They were on a six-hour trip to Bonghwa, North Gyeongsang Province, to work at a local farm for 60,000 won (US$50) per day.
Many point out that the harsh reality in rural towns that are in dire need of workers, so much so that farm owners are scrambling to hire foreign workers who often cannot speak the Korean language, has resulted in such tragedy.
The government is sending foreign workers with short-term visas to work in rural towns during the farming season.
Many farmers, however, complain that the current policy falls short of meeting demand since they need workers throughout the whole year.
Seasonal workers from overseas carrying C-4 visas can work at a designated farm for a maximum of three months.
What began with only 19 foreign workers in 2015 when the program was first introduced in Gwesan County, North Chungcheong Province, expanded to 200 people being sent to six regional authorities in 2016.
The numbers reached 1,086 workers in 2017 and 2,822 in 2018.
The three-month limit, however, is working against farms that need workers throughout the year for sowing, seeding, and harvesting.
Farmers in Gangwon Province complained that the current policy of sending three to four workers to each farm is not enough to cover their vast cabbage fields.
In fact, hundreds of foreign workers are sent to work during the harvest season for potatoes and other similar crops, most of whom are undocumented workers.
Farmers are increasingly depending on foreign workers as the agricultural population is dropping. Despite the demands for foreign workers, their treatment has yet to be improved.
“We pay them 1.8 to 2 million won (US$1,528-1,698) in monthly salary, but the harsh working environment is driving them out in less than two years,” said one local farmer.
H. M. Kang (firstname.lastname@example.org)