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Aug. 17  2018
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THE TWO FACES OF KOREA

"We will toughen surveillance on illegal labour practices of employers."

Source  :  BASE21



Korea is showing the world a welcoming foreigner-friendly face to the thousands of visitors attending the 2002 Korea/Japan World Cup games. But the face that the Korean government isn't showing is its unfair treatment of an estimated 300,000 migrant workers living and working here. Migrant workers - commonly referred to as 3D workers as the work they do is dirty, dangerous, and demeaning - comprise close to 80% of all foreign workers in Korea.

Fearing deportation, in many cases they are forced to endure dire human rights abuses. On average paying brokers $6000-$8,000 U.S. just to get to Korea, they came here via an unfair trainee system which forces them to work for 2 years at drastically substandard wages, and at the mercy of their bosses who can treat them unfairly with impunity, using deportation as a threat. Understandably, the majority of them fled their original work places, seeking fairer work conditions.

In May 2001, the ETU-MB (Equality Trade Union, Migrant's Branch) was formed by migrant workers, a precedent setting union comprised of migrant workers demanding the abolishment of the trainee system and the implementation of the visa-granting WPS (Work Permit System) which would allow them to freely choose their work without fear. The ETU-MB is entirely without precedent in Korea and is a ground breaking labour development for workers worldwide.

This year, the Korean government issued a moratorium on the workers, promising no deportations if the undocumented workers register with the government, giving them until March 24th, 2003 to leave the country, and making promises to enact a fairer policy toward them. Hypocritically, this stance coincides with an all-out attack on the ETU-MB and migrant workers in general. The ETU-MB harshly critises this stance, saying that it is mere posturing for popular consumption and it doesn't reflect the reality of the government's attack on migrants.

WELCOME
“THE TWO FACES OF KOREA”

What the Ministry of Labour says:
"We will toughen surveillance on illegal labour practices of employers."

Reality:
The trainee system is unfair. Period. Even if monitors regularly visit work sites to ensure that the workers are being paid, it doesn't detract from the basic fact that they are being paid substandard wages. The trainee system is a form of slavery. Until it is removed, the problem remains unsolved.

What the Ministry of Labour says:
"We will set up counselling booths for migrant workers to fairly reconcile disputes between the workers and the employers."

Reality:
Any proposed counselling booths are bound to be heavily biased in favour of the employers and ineffective in meaningfully resolving disputes. The Korean government has repeatedly suppressed attempts on the part of migrants to organise unions. It also recently declared a proposed migrant's rally illegal, threatening to deport attending workers. And more recently, the government threatened to raid and cleanse factory towns, most notably targeting the town of Masok where many key members of the ETU-MB work in an effort to destroy the union (called off at the last minute out of fear of international attention, the crackdown will promptly resume after the World Cup). Until the workers can freely organise, they are in a disadvantaged position to fairly negotiate their work conditions.

What the Ministry of Labour says:
"We will overhaul the system under which workers are hired and managed to fundamentally resolve the problems related to foreign workers."

Reality:
The Employee Permit System vaguely proposed by the government will in no way solve injustices incurred by migrant workers. On the contrary, it entrenches those injustices by legally perpetuating the trainee system. Instead, the ETU-MB calls for the WPS (Work Permit System). The current registration program and the proposed EPS is a thinly veiled attempt to cleanse the country of the close to 300,000 existing workers (many of whom will work the rest of their lives to pay back loans taken to come to Korea and all of whom support families), destroy the ETU-MB, and import a more docile migrant workforce.

STOP THE CRACKDOWN!
ABOLISH THE TRAINEE SYSTEM!I
IMPLEMENT THE WPS!
RENUMERATE UNPAID WORK VICTIMS!
STOP HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS!
ABIDE THE 3 LABOUR RIGHTS:
- right to organise
- right to collective bargaining
- right to form unions
FREEDOM OF SPEECH!
EQUAL RIGHTS FOR ALL WORKERS!


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