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Undocumented hero: Koreans urge gov't not to deport Kazakh man who saved people from burning building

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By Jung Min-ho

Ali, the undocumented hero from Kazakhstan / Yonhap
Ali, the undocumented hero from Kazakhstan / Yonhap
A Kazakh man who risked his life to save 10 people from a burning building faces deportation after his illegal status came to light.

Moved by his story, more than 10,000 people have signed a petition urging the government not to deport the man, 28, who they say deserves permanent residency and a reward, not deportation.

"The government should compensate him for what he did," a petitioner said on the Cheong Wa Dae website. "I have heard he is going to be deported. If the government did so to such a person, it would be an international embarrassment."

The man, identified only by his given name Ali, smelled something burning when he arrived at his one-bedroom apartment in a town in Yangyang County, Gangwon Province, about 11:20 p.m. on Mar. 23.

After realizing the building was on fire, he immediately opened the windows on the second and third floors to let the smoke out. He then he screamed "fire, fire!" to wake up everyone in the complex.

After being told that one woman was still in her room on the second floor, Ali climbed gas pipes to get in and ran through flames to rescue her. In doing so, he suffered burns to his neck, back and hands. But unfortunately the woman died after inhaling too much toxic smoke.

Worried about his illegal status, Ali left the scene as soon as firefighters arrived.

After learning what happened to him, his neighbors eventually took him to a hospital where they helped him receive treatment.

On April 16, Ali reported himself to the Korea Immigration Service as an undocumented worker. Following his admission, he now has to leave Korea by May 1.

Ali, a father of two children, came to Korea on a tourist visa in 2017 and has worked at various places to support his family in Kazakhstan.

In 2018, an undocumented Malian migrant who rescued a child dangling from the balcony of a fourth-floor flat in Paris was given French citizenship for his bravery.

Jung Min-ho


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