TWO CHARGED IN PALAU OVER ILLEGAL WORKERS

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By John Ravelo

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Jan. 13) – The Palau Attorney General's Office has lodged criminal charges against two Korean nationals who recruited a cultural dance group from Saipan to work in the republic.

In a telephone interview, Assistant Attorney General Dave Shipper said 14 charges of unlawful employment of nonresident workers were filed against Kim Dae Woo and Kim Sung Ki at Palau's Supreme Court.

Investigation showed that the cultural dance group members were made to work despite having no work permits from the Palau government. Shipper said the 14 workers from Saipan entered Palau on tourist visas.

Shipper said, though, that the workers would not be deported pending the court case. He said only 10 of the 14 workers remain on Palau, and the workers have also expressed their desire to return to Saipan.

One of the defendants, Sung Ki, has posted $500 as bail for his temporary release, Shipper said. The assistant attorney general assured, though, that the defendant could not leave Palau after the court confiscated his travel documents. The other defendant, Dae Woo, remains at large after leaving Palau the before investigation began.

Palau's Labor division chief Russ Masayos said that the workers continue to stay at their apartment and are still being provided food.

"My officers just checked on them [workers] and they have food and house at no cost to the workers," Masayos said in a separate telephone interview.

At least one worker, Rose Fejeran, reportedly expressed fear of being ejected from an apartment in Meyuns, where she and her co-workers are being housed.

Businessman Seon Soob Ha, the same owner of the Hanpa Group of Companies that also operates the Lake 2 Restaurant where the dance group used to perform, reportedly owns the apartment. Ha reportedly sponsored the two employers' stay in Palau.

Other group members include manager Mel Hal Taitano, singer Fejeran, and dancers Jose D. Guerrero, 18; Jedyleeh Quizza F. Castillo, 19; Eldred Reyes Shai, 19; Catherine Shai, 20; Jesse John Castro, 21; Melody Ngirchongor Blunt, 22; Fritz Passi, 22; Dean Pangelinan, 25; and Ray Ngirchau Ruluked, 36. One of them already went back to Saipan, Shipper said.

The workers are members of the Siba Afi [Fire Dance] group, which performs Hawaiian and Polynesian dances. Nine of them are U.S. citizens.

The two employers reportedly contracted the dance group on Saipan last June to perform at the Lake 2 Restaurant in Medalaii, Palau, after watching it perform cultural dances at a Saipan hotel and cultural park. The recruiters allegedly contracted the dance group for six months, which would expire in March 2005.

Upon their arrival on Palau sometime last September, the workers were made to clean their apartment and the stage where they were supposed to perform was not yet completed, the group's manager disclosed.

The group reportedly performed Hawaiian and Polynesian dances four nights weekly at Lake 2 Restaurant, which sometimes had no customers. It later found out that another dance group was not getting paid their wages.

The employers allegedly abandoned the workers after having a misunderstanding among themselves when the business failed to pick up.

January 13, 2005

Saipan Tribune http://www.saipantribune.com

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