By Politics Correspondent Heo Su-ho
ANMI: The conference of governors of Haesan’s four southeasternmost provinces, Namhae, Imyu, Yeongnam, and Ryujang, have admitted to coordinating a joint drive to facilitate the naturalization of Xiomeran workers affected by the nation’s recent withdrawal of manufacturing initiatives from Haesan. They have also acknowledged the move has been augmented by an increased police force at major ports and airports until Xiomeran companies finish their withdrawal. It is expected that this initiative will last until the end of next week, until the estimated 100,000 Xiomeran nationals working in Haesan will be repatriated.
It is unusual to see a coalition of governors acting in this way, but it is rumoured the office of President Kim has fully backed this initiative and non-military reserves, mainly composed of youth fulfilling their national service, have been spotted assisting the efforts in the southeast. This admission comes after social media users and independent journalists have noticed an abnormal amount of police in the ports of Anmi and Gyeongseong, and the spotting of younger volunteers wearing military insignia in residential areas near the site of former Xiomeran factory zones. It is believed that the government tried to keep these actions clandestine in order to avoid potential Xiomeran blowback, but journalists’ efforts have seemingly foiled that. However, there had been no prior denial of the recruitment drive, and it is likely authorities would have revealed their efforts in real time.
Amongst the populace, there seems to be initial support for these efforts, especially amongst the young volunteers. Jeong Ye-won, 19, a national service worker near the Namjun Industrial Zone who will be attending Yeongsu University in the fall, confided that “I derive a lot of pride from this sort of work, being able to provide a lifeline to these Xiomeran workers is really valuable to me. Many of these workers had their lives controlled, with poor wages, and often kept here at the risk of their families. To be able to give some of them an out from this brutal system is some of the most rewarding service work I am able to do.”
Amongst the locals we talked to, the sentiment seemed to be similar, with various citizens deriding the “horrible conditions” and “lack of freedom” the factory workers experienced. Several interviewees derided the government as well, stating that “[The government] should have acted sooner.” The general consensus is that any “defecting” Xiomeran workers would be welcomed with open arms. Marina Yoon, 49, a pharmacy manager in Namjun-dong, told the Times-Courier that “We have seen glimpses of these workers for so many years, to actually be able to reach out and welcome some of them to the community would be a wonderful development.”
It is estimated that, so far, around 2,500 Xiomeran workers have declared that they would like to seek Haesanite citizenship, allowing for their lawful residence in Haesan for at least the next two years without work requirements. Sources also indicate that several top level engineers and their families are among this group. It is likely many more will continue to declare as Xiomeran security forces thin across the duration of their withdrawal.