Detention of Unregistered Nepalese Draws Protest

2009-10-16 : 20:54

Minod Moktan faces being deported after he was caught by immigration officers earlier this month. The detention of the Nepalese, who has been active in various cultural and human rights activities, is drawing protest from migrant workers’ groups. / Courtesy of MWTV
Immigration Says Law Application Won’t Be Exceptional

By Cho Jae-hyon
Staff Reporter

The detention of a Nepalese who overstayed his visa by about 17 years is drawing fierce protest from migrant workers' groups, while authorities make it clear that they will handle the case in line with the law.

Minod Moktan (Korean name Minu), who worked as a film section chief for an Internet broadcaster MWTV (Migrant Workers TV), was apprehended on Oct. 8 by immigration officers while he was entering the station's building in Yongsang, Seoul.

The abrupt detainment sent migrant workers' associations and many other human rights groups into forming an alliance to campaign for freeing the 38-year-old.

Minu has been active in cultural and human rights activities, emerging as a symbolic figure representing the rights of unregistered foreign workers. He has taken part in various music events and received a number of awards ― even one from the culture minister in 1999.

Forming a band "Stop Crackdown" along with other migrant workers in 2003, he performed as a vocalist, appearing on numerous TV programs and holding tours across the nation for migrant people.

Lee Byung-han, co-representative of MWTV, said the authorities should take into consideration his contribution to helping Korean society understand migrant workers before attempting to deport him.

"He has played a significant role in bridging Korean society and migrant workers. Minu has really played a pioneering role in laying a stepping stone for Korea moving toward becoming a multicultural society," Lee said. "We are concerned that this symbolic mediator for multicultural society might disappear. It will be a great loss to our society."

He said the association formed for the campaign to free Minu will file a petition with the Justice Ministry, Monday, demanding the government grant special permits to make his sojourn legal at least for the next one or two years.

No Exception

However, the Korea Immigration Service said that there will be "no exception" in applying laws to those migrant workers who are illegally staying here.

"We are well aware that Minu is a sort of symbolic figure for illegal sojourners and he is drawing a lot of support from many human rights groups. But we cannot make an exception no matter how many petitions they make," a senior immigration officer said, declining to be named.

He said Minu was caught in 2000 but released temporarily so he could receive unpaid salaries and sort out other affairs on condition that he report back to the authorities when he had taken care of the matters. But he just disappeared, according to the officer.

He said the immigration is reviewing Minu's complaints filed with the immigration office, with the decision expected to be available next week.

Minu has been transferred to a detention center in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province.

His detention is also causing a stir on the Internet. Some netizens have set up an online cafe for the campaign to help set him free at portal Daum (http://cafe.daum.net/free-minu).

Minu first set foot here with a tourism visa in 1992 when E-9 work visas were not available for foreign laborers.

The "Free Minu" association held a protest rally in front of the detention center in Hwaseong, Friday, demanding the authorities release him and pledging to take all possible measures to keep him from being deported.

chojh@koreatimes.co.kr