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News : Korean Men Harass Staff at Immigrant Women’s Call Center
Nov 19, 2014 -- Immigrant women working at a call center set up to offer a hotline to migrant wives are often verbally harassed by Korean men, the Gender Equality Ministry said.
There are currently 76 foreign-born workers from different countries including Vietnam, China and the Philippines, for the national hotline Danuri, which provides 24-hour service in 13 different languages.
The full-time operators were hired by the government to provide services in the mother tongues of women immigrants here.
Most of the attackers are Korean men married to foreign-born women, said Lee Byung-hwa from the Gender Equality Ministry.
According to Lee and Cho Nan-young, the head of the Danuri Call Center, the attackers sometimes curse at the operators, make fun of their foreign accents or even sexually harass them.
"They would ask the operators very inappropriate questions such as ‘are you single?’ or ‘what does your husband do?’" Cho told The Korea Herald.
Many would also call with their wives and force the operator to translate what one would consider abusive.
"Many of these men want their wives to act the way they want, from how they do their dishes to how to clean the house," Cho said.
"So when our operators try to point out that it is necessary for him and his wife to have mutual respect and understanding for one another, they would repeat what they want to be translated in a very threatening manner and even curse out loud."
Cho said about 60 percent of those who call do it because they have a difficult relationship with their Korean husbands. Some of these women experience domestic violence and financial problems. Some ask for legal advice on how to file for divorce, Cho said.
"Many of the operators are emotionally drained because on top of being harassed, they get calls from many women who are in great crisis," she said.
"Some of those who are dealing with domestic violence decide to stay in the marriage for the sake of their children."
The harassment experienced by the operators was addressed to lawmaker Lee Jasmine, the first nonethnic Korean and naturalized citizen to become a lawmaker in South Korea, in August.
In its effort to support the operators’ emotional well-being, the Gender-Equality Ministry is organizing a special therapeutic program for the operators later this month.
The center received some 54,100 calls last year. The hotline can be reached from anywhere in the country at 1577-1366.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Friday, November 21, 2014