Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Immigration Prison Diaries

Ohmynews has published letters written by an American of Jamaican descent who was arrested for teaching English illegally in Korea. Due to an internet controversy followed by a sensationalist tv program demonizing English teachers earlier this year, migrant workers are no longer the only foreigners being regularly targeted by immigration police in Korea. This article fills in the background, while this one touches on another aspect of the controversy.

The letters, written from the detention centre in Yeosu, can be found here and here. They provide an excellent look at, and criticism of, the system from the inside, and detail the challenges faced not only by the foreign workers from all over the world he is confined with, but also by the prison guards, who work in 24 hour shifts.


  1. I still think it's important to look at these things in context. English teachers are being investigated more but it isn't a sector where illegal work has a been a consistent structural factor conditioning the lives of many or sometimes most of those people. English teachers number nearly 20,000 of which on a few hundred may be 'illegal' or unqualified, undocumented workers number near 200,000. Tony's diaries seem pretty good for his description of how migrants get stuck in the prisons, however, his individual case is 'unique' in that legally he doesn't seem to have much to stand on. I remember being contacted about what we could advise him about a few months ago when he was arrested and it was really quite hard. I know he is trying to go through a human rights commission but, really, there's not much to go on. In general, it seems that the english teaching sector, dodgy as it can be, is not premised on exploiting undocumented workers as are other sectors, thus it's hard to politicize his case as well. Oh well, complicated issue. I support his rights to due process is what I'm saying, but I don't think his case is rudicable to a generalized assualt on English teachers, even though there may be a more vigilant eye on qualifications and permit status following the backlash.


  2. Hey J.
    MY Korean friend made a Enlgish blog about migrant workers' movement in Korea. She is planning to translate Korean articles into English. Also she herself write some articles and essays. She is a passionate strong writer. I like her writing.

    This is her blog add.

    Heard that Kabir went back to Bangladesh? And Anwar, the president of the Seoul Migrant Workers' Union was arrested?
    I think you already know about this. Mahbub started Migrant Workers TV about two months ago.
    Christian is also working together.
    Nancy is going to leave Korea August. I moved last week. I was really busy.

    It was a short report
    from manic, Seoul

    miss you!!!

    Oh what was my pw number????