Report Wire - In Netflix’s ‘Squid Game’, an perception into determined lives of South Korea’s South Asian migrant staff

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In Netflix’s ‘Squid Game’, an perception into determined lives of South Korea’s South Asian migrant staff

9 min read
In Netflix’s ‘Squid Game’, an insight into desperate lives of South Korea’s South Asian migrant workers

When 38-year-old Shakir Khan watched the character of Ali Abdul, a manufacturing facility employee from Pakistan within the South Korean survival drama ‘Squid Game’, it was like he was 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 youngsters in Lahore, hoping that employment in South Korea would enable him to offer his household a greater life. But when he first landed in Seoul, he was unaware of the awful future that awaited. 

After it was first launched on September 17, Netflix claims Squid Game reached the primary spot in 90 international locations, together with India, in only one month and has grow to be the most important present that the streaming service has ever produced. Played by Indian nationwide Anupam Tripathi, an actor based mostly 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 a conspicuous discovery.
“I want to make money,” Ali tells a fellow participant. Dependent 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 number of of his fingers whereas working on the manufacturing facility.   

Just a fast be aware to say Ali from Squid Game deserves the world.
— Netflix UK & Ireland (@NetflixUK) September 30, 2021
It isn’t as a lot Ali’s nationality as it’s his circumstances that resonate with Khan. Rather, it’s the lived experiences of the hundreds of women and men from South Asia and Southeast Asia who work throughout farms and factories in South Korea. For migrant staff like Khan, sickness, harm and dying are part of on a regular basis life within the nation.
A number of months in the past, one in all Khan’s acquaintances from India injured his hand throughout a office accident and ended up dropping 4 fingers, very similar to Ali within the drama. “He didn’t even get any compensation. He came to work here but suffered so much,” stated Khan. Still, Khan stated the person was one of many extra lucky migrant staff in South Korea.
Most migrant staff in South Korea dwell on web site, and are supplied lodging inside delivery containers which were partially modified and became shelters. Photo credit score: Virendra Verma
This previous winter, Khan awoke one morning to listen to {that a} pal working in a neighborhood manufacturing facility in Gyeonggi province had died due to the acute chilly. Most migrant staff within the nation dwell on web site, and are supplied lodging inside delivery containers which were partially modified and became shelters. Living inside these areas which have few provisions for heating, could be tough throughout South Korea’s four-month lengthy brutal winters.
“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 dwelling 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.
Most migrant staff in South Korea dwell on web site, and are supplied lodging inside delivery containers which were partially modified and became shelters. Photo credit score: Virendra Verma
Although there are not any official figures, Yadav believes that near 70% of migrant staff in South Korea dwell in containers like these, which were transformed into one room areas with a makeshift kitchenette and a toilet.
In one scene in ‘Squid Game’, viewers are supplied a quick glimpse of what life is like for migrant staff in these containers. But dwelling inside one in all these areas 12 months spherical is an extremely difficult expertise, one thing unfathomable for most individuals, and never totally captured in images and movies, Yadav stated.
In one scene of ‘Squid Game’, Ali’s character is seen contained in the delivery container the place he lives. Photo credit score: Screenshot
Among the migrant staff within the nation, Verma stated that unlawful staff from India are worse off. In 2004, South Korea carried out its Employment Permit System to beat labour shortages by permitting employers to legally rent an satisfactory variety of overseas staff from a gaggle of nations throughout Asia, together with Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh. While residents from these international locations are legally permitted to work in South Korea for about 5 years and journey forwards and backwards between their house international locations, Seoul has no such agreements with New Delhi.
The Embassy of the Republic of Korea in India didn’t reply to’s requests for statistics and remark on the time of publishing this report.
When Virendra Verma first arrived in South Korea 10 years in the past, the nation’s chilly climate got here with 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 (approx. US$ 5,000) to pay the brokers and check out his luck in a rustic that he had by no means visited and had recognized 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 be capable to work in a small firm that will enable him to ship a refund house and repay his loans. When he arrived, he was despatched to work on a farm, involving bodily labour that he had by no means finished earlier than.
Migrant staff work inside a greenhouse at a farm in Pocheon, South Korea on Feb. 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
“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 them up, creating home labour shortages, due to which corporations have turned to overseas staff who’re prepared to work, regardless of decrease pay and poor work situations.

According to a paper printed in 2020 by Nigel Callinan, assistant professor at Hannam University, 10% of the entire variety of migrant staff within the nation had been discovered to be overstaying their visas in 2017. But there’s little knowledge 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 staff presently dwelling within the nation.
The prospect of a wage of something between US$1,300 and US$1,600 monthly, an quantity a lot under the authorized minimal wage that these labour contracts guarantee, is enticing sufficient to attract determined Indians to journey to South Korea with out acceptable visas, in lots of instances, with the information that they’re violating immigration legal guidelines, and must put up with tough work situations.

In the ten years that Verma has lived right here, he has missed his kids rising up and his dad and mom died ready to see him in individual. “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.” But the considered unemployment that he believes awaits him in India stops him from leaving his job at a manufacturing facility 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 from India was working in a livestock farm here. 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 tough for the South Korean federal and native authorities to supply a lot help to such migrant staff, who’re largely reliant on social staff and the kindness of individuals from their house nation.
Cambodian staff converse throughout a web based interview in a delivery container that’s used as their house put in at a farm in Pocheon, South Korea on Feb. 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
In addition to poor working and dwelling situations, migrant staff 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 as soon as they go away abusive employers, leading to immigration-related issues.
Unable to talk Korean, migrant staff who’re new arrivals within the nation face significantly tough 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.
his picture reveals garments and a mattress of migrant staff in a delivery container, a makeshift house for them at a farm in Pocheon, South Korea on Feb. 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
The desperation to supply a greater life for his or her households compel them to ship 90% of their meager salaries again house. Their unlawful immigration standing additionally implies that employers exploit Indian staff by paying half of what’s the regulation and is paid to staff from different international locations in South Asia and Southeast Asia. “The basic salary comes to around Rs. 1,00,000 (approx. US$ 1,300), which is a lot for them. They send everything to their families,” stated Yadav.
For years, there have been experiences of staff 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 staff in South Korea.
Human rights activists stage a rally calling for higher dwelling situations for migrant staff close to the presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea on Feb. 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
Ten days in the past, a person who had arrived solely three years in the past in South Korea from Kolkata, started experiencing chest ache whereas sleeping alone in his container. By morning, he had died. When information of his dying unfold locally, Yadav and a few staff rushed to see what they may do. “The hospital asked for Rs. 6,00,000 (approx. US$ 7,900) 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. 4,00,000 – Rs. 5,00,000 (approx. US$ 5,000 – US$ 6,600). So we all contributed some money to conduct his funeral here. His family couldn’t even see him,” Verma stated.
The man’s dying offers Yadav nightmares that hold him awake at evening and he hasn’t been capable of sleep for the reason that incident. “His family left his responsibility on me. We will immerse his ashes in the nearby river.”
“There are many who come to Korea and they remain here—their bodies remain here,” stated Yadav.