Korea suicide spurs unlawful job crackdown

Wansin Bunklang left a tour group hoping to find work in South Korea, and now his family waits for his body to be returned home. (Photo by Surachai Piraksa)

Authorities have vowed to get tough with job brokers who lure people into working illegally in South Korea via social media, a factor believed to be connected to the suicide of one Thai worker.

The pledge was given after a 40-year-old man from Buri Ram took his own life on Feb 8 in South Korea where he was working illegally. Wansin Bunklang was believed to have been subject to abuse at the hands of his employer who was aware that he was an undocumented worker. Wansin was said to have received no wage during his employment.

His body was flown back to Thailand on Thursday and his cremation ceremony was held in his hometown in Buri Ram‘s Krasang district yesterday.

Officials from the Department of Employment (DOE), who visited Wansin‘s family, said Wansin and his wife, Om Wongchan, 40, had ed a job broker for work in South Korea through a Facebook page.

The couple flew to South Korea as tourists on Dec 11. They paid 20,000 baht each for a package tour to the country where they subsequently absconded from the trip to get jobs recommended by the broker.

Ms Om said she and her husband wanted to work in South Korea to save up some money to build a house. They also borrowed 150,000 baht from the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) to sponsor the trip.

Only seven days after they arrived in South Korea, Ms Om decided they would return to Thailand as she and her husband still could not find jobs while having to shoulder high costs of accommodation and food there.

She came back to Thailand while her husband had stayed behind.

Ms Om said her husband told her over the phone soon after her return that he had landed a job. However, he was not getting paid as his employer knew he was an illegal migrant worker. Wansin told her he struggled to make ends meet with the money he had taken for the trip running out.

She said she did not know how to help her husband, who was desperate to come home, as they had no money left to buy a plane ticket for him.

Ms Om was informed by the South Korean embassy in Thailand on Feb 8 that her husband had committed suicide by hanging himself off a structure on the side of a road in Seoul.

Referring to the case, DOE director-general Anurak Tossarat said Labour Minister Adul Sangsingkeo had instructed ministry officials to provide assistance for Wansin‘s family.

The officials were working with police to prosecute job brokers who lured people into working illegally overseas and to ramp up campaigns to warn anyone planning to sneak into a foreign country in search of employment that they risk severe legal punishment.

The DOE has set up a team to track online job brokers who persuaded people to go to work illegally overseas as well as those linked to human trafficking and crimes, he said,

The team will also visit websites and leave a message warning against illegal employment overseas, Mr Anurak said.

Those found to have lured people into working abroad illegally are liable for a jail term of three to 10 years, or a fine of up to 200,000 baht, or both, Mr Anurak said.

DOE deputy director-general Sombat Niwetrat said some illegal brokers have imparted online advice to prospective job seekers on how they should speak to South Korean immigration authorities to increase their chances of legally getting into the country.

The jobseekers were told to buy package tours and they would be picked up by the brokers once they arrived in South Korea.

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