A Korean national operating a guest house in Thandalam, near Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu, has been booked after a video showing him physically and verbally assaulting employees from the Northeast went viral last week.
The video posted on Facebook on Friday night by Poujatlung R Panmei, president of the Zeliangrong Students’ Union Chennai, a local organisation established for the support of students from the Northeast, was quickly shared in Facebook groups for fans of Korean culture in India, who criticised the conduct of the Korean citizen.
Panmei told indianexpress.com that he had received the video from an employee at the guesthouse who had recorded it during the incident. Panmei claimed he had received reports of other employees from the Northeast being mistreated by Won Ji-moon. This statement could not be independently verified.
Panmei said the Naga Students Union and the Northeast India Welfare Association Chennai have been helping the employees with rehabilitation and filing police complaints against the Korean citizen. According to the FIR, Won is listed as the managing director of Won Hotels Pvt. Ltd.
“We filed an FIR today and reported the incident to the Director General of Police in Nagaland who said he was in touch with his counterpart in Tamil Nadu,” said Wapang Toshi, president of the Northeast India Welfare Association Chennai, an organisation that assists people from Northeast India working in Tamil Nadu.
In a copy of the FIR obtained by indianexpress.com, Kito Zhimomi, one of the four employees of the guest house, filed a complaint against Won under IPC Section 294 (b) that covers singing, reciting or uttering obscene songs, ballads or words, in or near any public place, that is punishable with imprisonment for a term up to three months, or with fine, or with both. The FIR was also filed under IPC Section 323 that covers punishment for voluntarily causing hurt, punishable with imprisonment up to one year, or with a fine which may extend to Rs.1,000, or with both.
“The four boys whom we rescued told us that the man used to assault them repeatedly and that is why they made that video,” said Toshi.
Zhimomi, 27, from Nagaland was one of the four men being hit in the video and had only started working at the guest house in July this year. “He beat us every day and we didn’t have proof. That day we made a video. He used to drink every day during dinner and then beat us because of the bills,” Zhimomi told indianexpress.com. Every night after the day’s work, along with three other employees from the Northeast, Mughashe Swu, 20, Gaijingjing Gonmei, 20 and Meichagai Kamei, 19, Zhimomi was tasked with counting and inventorying bottles of beer and soju, a Korean liquor.
On the night of August 5, Zhimomi said there was a discrepancy in the number of bottles the men had counted after which Won began verbally and physically assaulting the four employees. “He used to beat us for silly mistakes and we used to tell him that we are here to help you, but he never listened,” said Zhimomi, adding that Won had tried to stop the men from filing a police complaint against him and didn’t realise they had recorded a video of the assault. Despite several attempts, Won refused to comment on the incident and asked this reporter to speak with his local manager.
Babu, the local manager of the guest house, told indinexpress.com that Won had apologised for his behaviour. “Today we have met the DGP and the city police commissioner to file a complaint against (the) Nagaland workers. During work hours they had been using liquor and drinks, (and) there were also complaints of inappropriate behaviour from their part (towards) some of the customers. This had led to slapping of workers by the hotel owner,” said Babu. Indianexpress.com was unable to procure a copy of the police complaint filed by Won against the employees and neither did Won or his manager provide evidence for their counter-complaints against the employees.
Although it is unclear what the exact figures are for the number of workers from the Northeast in the area, Toshi believes that approximately 5,000-6,000 people from Northeast states are at present working in Korean companies and establishments.
Approximately 20 years ago, Hyundai Motor India Ltd. opened two manufacturing units in Irungattukottai and Sriperumbudur, both about an hour’s drive from Chennai. Since then several Korean restaurants, shops and hospitality services run by Koreans have cropped up and expanded to serve the influx of Korean workers in the area. Thandalam, where this guest house is located, is a village in the Sriperumbudur taluk of Kancheepuram district in Tamil Nadu.
(With ENS inputs)