Cruelty at sea claims to be probed
SOUTH KOREA has pledged to investigate repeated claims that Vietnamese fishermen hired to work on its trawlers are being beaten, starved and underpaid.
Diplomats in Hanoi said they were aware of rumours and reports but no official complaints had yet been lodged.
Vietnam's state press has reported that Seoul is threatening to withdraw licences of wayward captains and agents after learning that more than 150 out of 1,400 Vietnamese workers recently hired had faced 'regrettable' cruelty.
Courses are being planned to teach new Vietnamese recruits South Korean 'habits and customs'.
However, diplomatic sources claimed no official decisions had been made and investigations had just started.
'We've still heard nothing official from the Vietnamese Government. We are aware of various reports and are making our own checks,' one diplomat said.
'It's too early to say if all the claims are justified, but we are looking hard at the situation.' Allegations centre on the case of 20 fishermen who fled South Korean ships at stops in Tenerife, the Canary Islands, after what they claimed was months of maltreatment and beatings.
Several said they had been denied food, while others said their wages had been withheld.
Those that returned complained to authorities, blaming a Vietnamese recruiting agency.
The fishermen, mainly from the poorest regions of central Vietnam, serve as deckhands on boats plying international waters.
Several of the increasing number of South Korean joint-venture factories in Vietnam have also faced allegations of long hours, low pay and violence from managers seeking to meet production deadlines.
South Korean businessmen say firms both big and small are seeking entry to Vietnam to exploit a young, hard-working and intelligent workforce.