Thursday, April 21, 2016

Modern day slavery in the 1970s, 1980s, and today

This story, about the decade or more of abuse of children and disabled people that went on at the Brothers Home in Busan, is pretty horrific. Almost as much as the government's attitude towards it:
The current government, however, refuses to revisit the case, and is blocking a push by an opposition lawmaker to do so on the grounds that the evidence is too old.

Ahn Jeong-tae, an official from Seoul's Ministry of the Interior, said focusing on just one human rights incident would financially burden the government and set a bad precedent. The Brothers' victims, he said, should have submitted their case to a temporary truth-finding commission established in the mid-2000s to investigate past atrocities. "We can't make separate laws for every incident and there have been so many incidents since the Korean War," Ahn said.
Well, we wouldn't want any more dirt on the president's father to be dug up, would we?
In 1975, dictator President Park Chung-hee, father of current President Park Geun-hye, issued a directive to police and local officials to "purify" city streets of vagrants. Police officers, assisted by shop owners, rounded up panhandlers, small-time street merchants selling gum and trinkets, the disabled, lost or unattended children, and dissidents, including a college student who'd been holding anti-government leaflets.

They ended up as prisoners at 36 nationwide facilities. By 1986, the number of inmates had jumped over five years from 8,600 to more than 16,000, according to government documents obtained by AP. Nearly 4,000 were at Brothers. But about 90 percent of them didn't even meet the government's definition of "vagrant" and therefore shouldn't have been confined there, former prosecutor Kim Yong Won told the AP, based on Brothers' records and interviews compiled before government officials ended his investigation.
The article makes a provocative claim:
Choi was one of thousands — the homeless, the drunk, but mostly children and the disabled — rounded up off the streets ahead of the 1988 Seoul Olympics, which the ruling dictators saw as international validation of South Korea's arrival as a modern country.
Except that Choi was arrested in 1982. Still, considering who was president at the time and the general 'clean ups' that take place in Olympic cities, it wouldn't be surprising. You'd think that the mass abuse of children would prompt more outrage, but keeping in mind the short sentences handed out for rape of children or the low age of consent, perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised. Maybe a movie needs to be made to draw attention, like 'The Crucible' or the one about the Burger King murder in Itaewon which resulted in the case being reopened.

Also related - since the children and inmates at Brothers House were made to work for free on goods made for export - is this story of modern day slavery on an island in southwestern Jeollanam-do; a video is here (hat tip to Gord Sellar).

This isn't anything new, however, as this November 28, 1971 Korea Times article makes clear:

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