Migrant labor union chief seeks to be heard (JoongAng Ilbo)

May 14, 2005 ㅡ The head of the first independent union for foreigners in Korea said that he's willing to risk getting deported in order to publicize the plight of migrant workers.
"Migrant workers have been working in undesirable jobs commonly known as the 3 Ds ―difficult, dirty and dangerous ―for 17 years, yet our contribution to this country has gone unnoticed," said MD Anwar Hossain, president of Seoul-Gyeonggi-Incheon Migrants' Trade Union, during a recent interview with the JoongAng Daily. The union formed in April and is awaiting governmental approval.
Mr. Hossain said his organization is planning to propose to the National Assembly in August a bill that abolishes time limits on E-9 work visas for migrant workers, which is now three years, and provides them better benefits, including health insurance.
"We work 12 to 14 hours every day without taking a break even during the weekends. Still, after three years, we are forced to leave the country, which only benefits the companies," he said.
Mr. Hossain, 34, first came to Korea in 1996 from Bangladesh and stayed in Korea even after his visa expired. He said if the authorities wanted to, they could deport him, but there are bigger issues at stake.
"It's quite hard to understand why we have to become illegal immigrants while the government here brings in new workers while forcing previous workers out of the country," Mr. Hossain said. "We're only here because we want to make a living, and it is time that our voices are heard."