In the Korea Times, Steve Kuack describes prison life for some 400 foreign inmates at Daejeon Correctional Institution:

A total of about 4,000 inmates are serving time, including roughly 300 foreign prisoners from 45 different countries. The alleged crime in question is usually divided along national lines: Malaysians, credit card fraud; Vietnamese, theft; Mongolians, manslaughter; and Westerners, drugs. Compared to Koreans, foreigners typically receive harsher sentences for identical crimes, but of the foreigners Westerners usually get lighter sentences than those from elsewhere.

What this means, of course, is if you’re a Westerner, leave the drugs at home. And if you, like me, are a Westerner married to a Mongolian, don’t piss off your inlaws.

According to extensive correspondence and interesting interviews with a vast array of foreign prisoners, their experience is a sobering reminder for everyone to cherish freedom. Assigned to cells aligned like the cramped quarters of the slave ships of the 17th century, two inmates share a cell with living quarters measuring no more than 4′ by 7′.

A sobering reminder to cherish freedom? How about a sobering reminder why it’s generally a bad idea to run credit scams, steal, kill, smuggle drugs or engage in other nonsense, either at home or abroad?

UPDATE: I just remembered that last year, a former Korean inmate of Daejeon Correctional filed a complaint with Korea’s human rights watchdog, complaining that foreign inmates were treated better than local ones:

Well, if it means anything to the guys, foreigners are apparently well treated in Korean prisons. Too well, in fact — a Korean ex-con recently released from a Daejeon prison after serving 20 years for murder has submitted a petition to the nation’s human rights watchdog complaining that foreign prisoners were treated better than Korean ones. Koreans were fed rice that was 80 percent rice and 20 percent barley, while foreigners were fed 100 percent rice, he claimed. Foreigners got more expensive food in the prison cafeteria, and the menu available for foreigners included pulgogi, cheese and ham, while the food Koreans ate was hard to even look at. Foreigners also got to buy cheese and tuna fish, while Koreans were not allowed to buy food like that, no matter how much money they had. Lastly, 20 percent of the foreign prisoners were sent out to work in outside factories, while Korean prisoners couldn’t even dream of this, he said.

Read the rest of that golden oldie on your own.