For two decades now, Nguyen Van Duong has been leading a sedentary life, paralyzed by a major accident while working as a crew member for a South Korean fishing vessel.
Duong left his native Ha Tinh Province in 2001 at the age of 25 to work for the fishing vessel in South Korea. His salary was VND5 million ($333 then) a month. However, in 2002, he fell and hit the back of his head on a steel bar. He broke his neck and was paralyzed.
He was sent back to Vietnam with a compensation of VND140 million.
For the following 10 years Duong was completely immobilized and had to spend all the compensation money on medicines and repaying debts. He and his children were dependent on his wife’s breakfast eatery.
There were times when he wished he would die.
Nguyen Van Duong, who was paralyzed when working abroad, speaks on his wheel chair at his home in Ha Tinh Province. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Hung
It is only in recent years that Duong has been able to use a wheelchair and take care of himself.
“I pray that a miracle would help me walk again.”
Millions of Vietnamese have gone abroad to work in the last four decades, sending home up to $4 billion a year, but many of them return home disabled or experience family tragedies.
There is no official data on the number of Vietnamese suffering accidents while working abroad, but Ha Tinh alone recorded 10 workers’ deaths in the first nine months of 2019.
Among the causes of death were falling to the sea, burned by industrial fires and caught in a fire on a fishing ship. To make the tragedies worse, most families could not afford to bring their child’s body back home.
In many cases, people who go to work abroad return to tragedy at home.
Thao, 42, has been raising two children on her own over the last three years. She separated from her husband on returning from South Korea.
She went there in 2015 to work for an electronics assembling company with a salary of VND30 million a month and sent home half her income.
But, upon returning, Thao found out that her husband had been spending most of the money she sent on gambling.
“Had I known this would happen, I would not have left. I have paid too heavy a price for going abroad.”
Nghi Xuan District, where Thao lives, has the biggest number of workers abroad in Ha Tinh Province at 14,500.
The district has many modern looking houses, in contrast to a typical Vietnamese rural area, thanks to the remittances from workers abroad.
Houses are seen in Nghi Xuan District, Ha Tinh Province, where many residents are working abroad. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Hung
But a local judge, who asked not be identified, said that he has presided over many divorce cases here, with labor export complications being the underlying reason.
In the last two years, Nghi Xuan has recorded 15 divorces related to labor exports. In fact, there are many more cases, but people are not willing to make the information public, officials said.
In June, a 16-year-old boy in Ha Tinh, whose parents had gone abroad to work, stabbed a 20-year-old man to death over some personal conflict.
Six other teenagers were involved in the case, and all of them had either their father or mother working abroad.
Nam, the grandmother and guardian of the 16-year-old boy, said that she had not been able to control him since his parents left, and she regretted letting him have too much freedom, leading to the death of a person.
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