10 unpaid migrant sailors stuck aboard ship in Busan Korea for 6 months

10 unpaid migrant sailors stuck aboard ship in Busan Korea for 6 months
http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/nation/2017/08/177_235507.htmlPosted : 2017-08-28 16:23Updated : 2017-08-29 10:24

Eight Chinese and two Myanmar sailors have been staying in a Togo ship that has been docked at Busan Namhang Harbor since February because of their unpaid wages amounting to over 90 million won. / Courtesy of Busan Foreign Workers Support Center

By Ko Dong-hwan

Korean fishery authorities have stepped in to help migrant Chinese and Myanmar sailors who have not been paid for months and have been living aboard their vessel in Busan.

The Korea Seafarer's Welfare and Employment Center (KSWEC) and the Federation of Korean Seafarers' Unions have agreed to provide legal support and money for food and daily necessities to the eight Chinese and two Myanmar sailors on the ship from Togo.

Officials from KSWEC and Busan Foreign Workers Support Center (BFC) visited the ship on Aug. 23 and met the sailors and a Korean captain.

According to Korean daily Kookje Shimmun, the captain was "very worried" that the sailors, who do not have permits to disembark, and were growing impatient, might harm him.

While the sailors have been stuck on the ship, one has missed his wife giving birth and another's marine technician license has expired.

The ship's owner, a paper company in Panama, has not fulfilled its tax duties to Togo, causing the ship to lose its legal nationality.

A Busan Regional Office of Oceans and Fisheries official said the sailors were owed more than 90 million won ($83,500) in unpaid wages, which they badly needed.

While the unnamed captain had not proposed any specific solutions, the sailors' predicament could only be solved in a civil affairs court using a certificate evincing the unpaid wages, the official said.

Even if the ship were confiscated and auctioned, the value would be only 30 million won.

"As a country actively engaged in international sea trade, South Korea abides by the international agreements and domestic seafarers' laws to protect the lives of their sailors regardless of their nationalities, and financially supports them when extraditing them," a Korea Maritime and Ocean University professor said.

"The situation in question, if handled improperly, may destroy the country's global image big time."

The 422-ton ship, which carried goods between Busan and China, has been docked in Namhang Harbor since February.

The sailors have spent a scorching summer aboard the ship, which had been without electricity after running out of fuel a long time ago.

In June, the sailors contacted a Chinese Consulate in Korea for help, but were told to contact the BFC.

The agency, together with the city's Christian maritime association called BADASEA, helped the sailors with food and amenities, but these were limited.