Working in Korean farms difficult
SEOUL, July 3
He wakes up at six in the morning, has breakfast with bleary eyes and starts to work at 6:30. He has his lunch at one in the afternoon and works till seven in the evening. He returns to his room at around 7:30, opens his notebook and surfs the net for a while looking for Nepali epapers, Facebook, Youtube and other sites. He then cooks and goes to sleep immediately after dinner.
This is the daily routine of Bikash Sharma, 21, of Syangja, who works at a vegetable farm inside a plastic house in Khengido, South Korea. Unskilled workers from 15 countries working at agricultural farms in Korea share similar routine. Sharma, who reached Korea eight months ago through the Employment Permit System (EPS), has been following the schedule for every day except two Saturdays in a month. He earns around Rs 70,000 a month by working in the house with a plastic roof and saves around Rs 50,000 a month after spending on ration and other things. “It is very difficult to work here on agriculture visa. We have to work like a donkey from the time we wake up till the time we go to bed,” he states. “There are no proper arrangements for accommodation and food and there is the rude behavior of the employers on top of that,” he says with a sad face. “I should not have come. But now that I have arrived, I will toil hard for a few years, return back to Nepal and do vegetable farming,” he adds.
Dharma Limbu, 23, of Jhapa got permission to change his work by paying his employer 500,000 Korean won after finding the job at the plastic house very hard. He is currently working at a poultry farm and looks after thousands of chicken from early in the morning to late in the evening. “We are facing quite a different plight from what we had hoped while in Nepal. This government has cheated those coming with agriculture visa,” he says.
A 24-year-old youth from Parbat, working at a pig farm in the industrial area of Thegu, preferred anonymity fearing that his family may be worried on reading this piece. He works in the farm near the jungle, a few kilometers away from human settlement. “The city is like the ones in Nepal. I struggled a lot to come here and had big dreams, but it all seems worthless now,” he rues. The youth, who was doing his master’s at the Prithvi Narayan Campus in Pokhara, spends his waking hours feeding the pigs and taking care of them.
Krishna KC of Tanahu, who works in a dairy farm in Ansan, says coming to Korea despite knowing very well that he has to do dirty, dangerous, and difficult work was his mistake. “I work like a donkey from four in the morning till nine in the evening. There is no time to eat and rest. Agricultural work in Korea is more difficult than the work in the Gulf states,” he states.
The plight of 28-year-old Sanjiv Chudal, who works at a mushroom farm in Khwanju is a little different. He felt bored for the first few days after reaching Korea on an agriculture visa through EPS. “Twelve hours of work at the farm, two days of holiday in a month, language problem, difficulty in eating and bad behavior of the employer made life miserable in the beginning,” Chudal, who has completed bachelor’s from Trichandra Campus in Kathmandu, reveals. “I wished to return home immediately, start my master’s and do something in my country. But slowly I started to like my work and developed the habit of working hard,” he adds. He was transferred to a mushroom farm from the plastic house after some time. “Nepal is better if we work with patience, diligence and passion,” he says despite making around Rs 100,000 a month.
Tulasi Poudel of Nawalparasi, who also works at a mushroom farm in Khwanju, was mistreated by his employer when he used to ask for leave on feeling digestive problems. Ram Sharma of Lamjung was seriously injured after being hit by crates while loading eggs on a truck. Though the employer got him primary treatment, he has problems with his hands. Sanjiv Shrestha of Rautahat suffers from terrible headaches. The workers complain that the Nepali Embassy in Korea is apathetic toward the sorry state of Nepali workers.
These are just a few representative cases and Nepali workers toil very hard here facing numerous physical and mental problems. They do not get remunerated in time and they do not have time to receive treatment and recuperate after falling ill. Foreign workers coming to Korea with agriculture visa easily get to work in agricultural farms, animal farms and fisheries. Thousands of Nepali youths come to Korea every year along with workers from other countries to work in these sectors. Many have been declared illegal and some have even returned back after being unable to work in these farms.The Korean Labor Ministry allows the workers to change their jobs up to three times during the visa period. But those coming with agriculture visas do not get permission to work in other sectors easily. Even if they get one, they have to relinquish a few benefits. Those coming to Korea feel the situation in Korea, that is considered to be a destination for handsome earning, is diametrically different from what one hopes for. But the production sector here has become a lucrative prospect.