Korea – Ko was in slavery for 19 years


To read on The Korea Times website:

Mystery remains over 19 years of slavery

By Lee Kyung-min  posted : 2016-07-17

Mystery remains over slavery of mentally challenged man

A 47-year-old man with an intellectual disability has recently returned home after 19 years of slavery at a cattle farm in Ochang in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province. But it has yet to be discovered how he was first sold to the farm and what hardships he faced.

According to Cheongwon Police Station in Cheongju, the man, surnamed Ko, had been working at a pig farm in Cheonan, South Chungcheong Province, for three years until the summer in 1997. From his earnings at the pig farm he supported his mother and older sister, both also mentally challenged, back home in Osong, Cheongju.

However, one afternoon, Ko went missing, and the pig farm owner reported his absence to police.

Shortly after, Ko was taken to a cattle farm in Ochang owned by a man, Kim, 68. Kim told police that a cattle seller brought Ko to his farm and he bought Ko from the cattle seller.

It remains unknown how and why the cattle seller took Ko to Kim’s farm, because the seller died in a car accident 10 years ago. Kim claimed he never asked the cattle seller to bring the man to his farm. Police suspect it is also unlikely that Ko left the pig farm voluntarily for a new job, considering that he has the mental capacity of a 12-year-old and has difficulty expressing his opinions.

At Kim’s farm, Ko was forced to do farm work without pay for 19 years until police found him on July 1 when he escaped from the farm and hid under the roof of a nearby factory.

Kim allegedly starved Ko at times as punishment, beat him, and failed to provide medical treatment when he was injured.

Police are having difficulty interviewing Ko, who still shows extreme anxiety and fear. He repeatedly said that he never wants to clean cow feces again, or go back to the farm.

Police plan to question Kim soon. If Kim is charged with abusing Ko, he may face a prison term of up to five years or a fine of up to 30 million won for abusing a person who is physically or mentally disabled.

Kim may also face labor law violation charges, under which employers who fail to pay workers a monthly income could face a prison term of up to three years or a fine of up to 20 million won.

Ko met his mother last Thursday for the first time since 1997. Kim’s farm and his home were only 18 kilometers apart.


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