Yambahadur Sherma collapsed under the weight of a 500 kg sandbag [sic] while working for a sand-casting company in a small town five hours from Seoul. The bag was supposed to be lifted by a loader but the company bosses forced her to do it instead. She was hospitalised for 10 months and is under medical care for 17 months. Her right leg was severely injured and she has been unable to walk properly ever since.
The company refused to take any responsibility for her hospitalisation as a result of hazards at the workplace. Sherma received only 11 months of basic salary. To make matters worse, the company made a decision not to renew her visa and deported her home. She has appealed to Amnesty International through a local association of Nepali workers.
Sherma dreamt of earning a lot of money, so she took a huge loan to travel abroad for work. She shut down her photo studio in her village in Panchthar and went first to Qatar and then to Seoul. But in the end, this not only worsened her financial state but also affected her health. "All my dreams have been shattered," says 38-year-old Sherma. She has to support four daughters in her village but does not know how, as she also has to return a huge loan to her moneylender.
During the 1990s, a large number of Nepalis had headed to South Korea hoping to become rich. The reality is different. Most of the over 8,000 Nepalis there work under difficult conditions. Madan Khadga has been hospitalised for the past two months after he injured his leg while at work. Iswar Chandra Rai lost both his eyes. Khagendra Kumari's index finger got chopped off by a work machine. At least 700 Nepali workers have been disabled. Over 80 have died in the last 10 years. There is no Nepali embassy or contact office to offer assistance or to fight for justice and against exploitation by employers. The situation would be better if Nepal could forge a bilateral understanding with the South Korean government.