Mosaruf Hossain, a migrant worker from Bangladesh, holds a ripped tabla, a popular percussion instrument in his home country, at a shelter provided by the Seoul Migrant Workers Center on a hillside area in Seoul in this picture taken on Sept. 28. Hossain, who underwent a hip replacement and bone grafting surgery on both legs, says his life resembles the tabla — broken, worn out and useless. / Korea TImes
By Lee Tae-hoon
Mosaruf Hossain, a native of Chittagong, Bangladesh, had a big dream when he first set foot in Korea on Nov. 3, 2009 with an E-9 Visa, a work permit for a job considered too dangerous, dirty and difficult for Koreans to undertake.
The 31-year-old thought it would be just a matter of time for him to earn enough money to make a glorious return home.
But all his dreams now lie shattered.
He is not only laden with heavy debt but he will also never be able to use his legs properly.
Hossain underwent hip replacement and bone grafting surgeries on both of his legs late last year because his body could no longer endure the hard labor.
The doctor told him that he will never be able to do any laboring job again, which Hossain believes is linked to the 15-hour work shifts he had to do which lasted for more than a year without a single day off.
He is now unfit for any of the jobs offered under the E-9 work scheme because he can barely walk without crutches. He will likely need another hip replacement operation that he cannot afford in 10 to 20 years even if he takes extra caution and care of his legs.
All he hopes for now is to return home but with his worn-out body, a bleak future is ahead.
Hossain is currently stuck in a shelter provided by the Seoul Migrant Workers Center, a non-governmental organization, which has been running a donation campaign to raise the money to purchase an airplane ticket for his trip back to Bangladesh.
In search of better life
After graduating from Bangladesh National University, Hossain ran a small book store. He earned about $300 a month but that wasn’t enough to support his family.
“I was the only breadwinner of the family. I encountered financial problems because my daughter grew up and my aging mother required medical treatment,” Hossain said, recalling what prompted him to come to Korea.
He thought about going to the United States to find a job but opted for Korea after consulting with his friends and receiving advice from the Bangladesh Overseas Employment and Services Limited, a state-run company responsible for exporting cheap labor from the South Asian country.
“They told me that I would find a more comfortable and less physically challenging job in the United States but would be able to make more money in Korea, which is known to have many labor intensive jobs,” Hossain said, adding that Seoul is a popular destination for Bangladeshi migrant workers. “My wife also encouraged me to go to Korea as she believed it a developed country and a very safe place to stay.”
Nearly 3,000 Bangladeshi migrant workers are currently working in Korea on E-9 Visas.
Upon his arrival in Korea, Hossain worked for a textile company in Uijeongbu, some 20 kilometers north of Seoul.
A half-hour lunch break was the only time granted to him for his body to have a chance to recover from the intensive labor.
“I had to lift and carry heavy boxes all day long without a rest,” he said.
“But I had no complaints since I was here to make money, not for my own comfort.”
Hossain lived in a container with two other Bangladesh workers even when the temperature dropped below minus 20 degrees Celsius.
“I had to put up with the cold the whole winter in the container from which the kitchen and the bathroom were at least 100 meters away,” he said.
After his first winter in Korea, Hossain worked for a company that makes furniture and sells it online.
He could earn as much as 2 million won a month, but had to work from 8:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. throughout the week.
“I worked non-stop,” he said. “I was responsible for boring wood boards. I had to repeatedly stand up and sit down three to four times in a minute, which I believed caused my illness.”
Hossain did not mind the job as he was able to send about 1.5 million won a month to his family.
On average, he spent only 400,000 won a month for his own expenses, which included 150,000 to 190,000 won for phone bills and 160,000 a month on food.
“I missed my family so much that I had to spend so much money on international phone calls,” he said.
Bitter twist of fate
After working in Korea for a year, he began to feel pain in his legs.
He went to see a doctor in February 2010 because he could no longer stand up without leaning against something.
“I was a healthy person. I had two medical checkups, one to apply for my employment in Korea and another upon my arrival in Seoul during three days of mandatory job training,” he said, noting that he developed the health problems due to hard labor.
“I wouldn’t have come to Korea if I knew that I was suffering from joint dislocation.”
With the help of Raphael Clinic, a Catholic organization dedicated to providing free medical services to migrant workers in Korea, he was able to have an operation on his left leg on Nov. 3, 2011, exactly two years after his arrival here, and on the right leg the following month.
Over the past several months, he has fought against his insurance company in hopes of receiving compensation for his life-long disability and the Korean labor ministry for a chance of landing a non-labor intensive job here.
However, it was all in vain. His insurance company has ruled out the possibility of interpreting his health problems as an occupational disease and the labor ministry also maintains that no preferential treatment or favors can be granted to him.
“I have fought so hard, but it has been of no avail,” he said, adding that his dream to open a grocery store in his hometown is now completely torn apart. “I don’t know what to do. All I know is that I don’t belong here.”
Anyone who wishes to make a donation to Mosaruf Hossain may call the Babo Nanum (Fool's Sharing) Foundation, a charity aimed at promoting the sharing spirit of the late Stephen Cardinal Kim Sou-hwan, on (02) 727-2503~8. You can also send money via the foundation’s bank account.
Account details: 1005-102-106434, Woori Bank
한국에 큰 꿈을 품고 2009년 11월 왔던 방글라데쉬 출신인 호사인 모사라프씨(31)가 결국 무일푼 장애인 신세가 되었다.
방글라데쉬 국립대를 졸업한 호사인씨는 치타공 찬드프루 지역에 작은 서점을 운영했었다.
하지만 홀어머니와 3명의 동생, 그리고 아내와 어린 딸을 부양하기에는 월 30만 정도의 수입은 턱없이 부족했다.
고심 끝에 외국에 나가 일하기로 결심을 했다. 미국과 한국을 놓고 많은 고심을 했지만, 한국이 안전한 나라이고 비록 일은 고되기는 하지만 보수도 높다고 해서 한국을 선택했다.
그는 결코 한국을 선택한 것을 후회하지 않았다. 비록 영하 20도 이하로 떨어지는 한 겨울을 의정부에 있는 콘테이너에서 생활하며 근무했지만 호사인은 마냥 행복했다.
거의 하루도 쉬지 않고 매일 15시간 이상의 중노동을 해야 많게는 200만원까지 벌 수 있었고, 집으로 대부분의 돈을 송금할 수 있었기 때문이다.
한국에서 5년만 일하면 번듯한 고향에서 번듯한 슈퍼마켓을 하나 열수 있을 거라 생각했지만 그 꿈이 산산조각 나는 데는 그리 오래 가지 않았다.
가구공장에서 일을 하다 다리에 통증이 있어 병원을 갔는데 일차성 비구 돌출증(양측)이라는 진단을 받았기 때문이다.
결국 한국에 온지 정확히 2년이 되는 날인 2011년 11월 3일 외국인 노동자 무료진료를 운영하는 '라파엘클리닉' . 서울외국인노동자센터의 도움을 받아 왼쪽 다리를 그리고 그 다음 달에는 오른쪽 다리를 수술했다.
수술은 성공적이었지만 평생 정상적인 일을 못하는 신세가 되었다. 다급한 마음에 노동부에 사무직을 할 수 있도록 도와달라 사정을 했지만 (E9) 고용허가제 비자로 왔기에 소위 고강도 노동이 필요한 3D직업 외에는 선택이 없다는 답변 뿐이었다.
산재보험도 들었지만 업무연관성이 없다는 판정을 받아 아무런 보상을 받지 못했다.
분명히 한국에 오기 전, 그리고 한국에 와서 받은 건강검진에 아무런 이상이 없었기에, 업무로 인한 장애일거라 호사인씨는 주장했지만 아무도 그의 목소리에 귀를 기울여 주지 않았다.
설상가상으로 한줄기 희망을 가지고 보험사와 노동부를 오가며 한국에 무직자로 체류하다 보니 집에 있는 땅까지 다 팔아 앞으로 생계가 막막한 상태이다.
제대로 걷지도 못하는 몸을 가지고 고국에 돌아가 가족을 만나고 싶지만 이젠 비행기표 값도 없어 서울외국인노동자센터가 운영하는 쉘터에 신세를 지고 있다.
한국에서 모든 꿈을 잃어 버리고 고국에 돌아가게 된 후사인의 비행기표 값과 정착비를 지원이 절실하게 필요한 실정이다.
코리아타임스는 재단법인 ‘바보의 나눔’과 공동으로 ‘함께하는 다문화 사회, 아름다운 공존’이라는 주제로 캠페인을 진행하고 있습니다. 도움의 손길이 필요한 귀화 한국인, 외국인 근로자, 다문화 가정 등 찾아가 그들의 아픔과 일상 속에서 받고 있는 고통을 소개하고 이들을 포용할 수 있는 해결방안을 모색하려 합니다.
사연의 주인공을 도우려면 은행계좌 1005-102-106434, (우리은행/예금주 바보의 나눔)로 송금하시면 됩니다. 지원이 필요한 외국인 노동자 및 가정의 어려운 사정을 소개하시고 싶으신 분뜰은 코리아타임스(02-724-2343) 또는 바보의 나눔(02-727-2503~8)으로 전화를 하시거나 전자우편(email@example.com)으로 연락하시면 됩니다.