Cordial and Sinister Faces of the World Cup 2002 in Korea
References: Yi-Yoon Joo, Chief, Equality Trade Union-Migrants Branch (HP-016-272-4528)
Marlen Kim Obrero- International Solidarity Director (016-399-1296)
Source :  Equality
May 22, 2002, Myongdong Cathedral, Seoul
Indirect contradiction to recent claims of fairness and benevolency to migrant workers (May 20th), the Korean Ministry of Labour is in fact aggressively pursuing a policy of labour suppression. The assumption lying behind the ministry's plan to "fundamentally resolve problems related to foreign workers by overhauling the system" is that the essence of the problem is the worker's undocumented status.
But the government plans to legalise the workers under the proposed EPS (Employee Permit System) which legally entrenches systemic injustice of the migrants by making it impossible to organise for fear of losing their jobs and being legally forced to leave the country as a result. Moreover, the proposed booths aimed to counsel foreign workers is also harshly criticised by the ETU-MB as being biased toward the interests of the employer and not the worker.
Recent events have proved that the Korean government is hostile to migrant workers: The Korean government has drastically stepped up its attack on migrant workers, targeting key members of the ETU-MB who are very active and vocal, opposing to the repressive registration scheme and suppression of migrants rights ultimately aiming to deport close to 300,000 workers.
The ETU-MB (Equality Trade Union, Migrant's Branch, a branch of the KCTU) is a truly remarkable ground breaking union comprised of migrant workers (commonly referred to as "3D workers" - the work they do is dirty, dangerous and difficult). After long years of courageous struggle, the union was finally established one year ago much to the Korean government's disdain who rely on a steady supply of cheap, passive, and expendible foreign labour to support small and medium sized factories. Fully 80% of all foreign labour in Korea is comprised of undocumented workers - the highest ratio in the world. This high figure is a direct reflection of extremely unjust Korean foreign labour policy which forces migrant workers to work under abysmal conditions under the current trainee system. Understandably, migrant workers flee their alloted workplaces, forced to seek a more fair and less dangerous working environment.
Disturbed by the fledgling migrant worker movement, the Korean government is now engaged in a wholesale effort to destroy the ground breaking ETU-MB:
On April 21st, a legal migrant worker rally was suppressed. The government has implemented a new registration system wholly designed to deport existing migrants (approximately 300,000), replacing them with fresh passive imports. The supposedly fairer proposed EPS (Employee Permit System) under which new workers will be imported, will put workers further at the mercy of their bosses by making it all but impossible to organize - if they are fired they must leave the country.
And the most recent deadly blow is a planned attack solely focussed on workers in Masok, a factory community east of Seoul where one the highest concentration of ETU-MB members exists. More than 100 union workers are in danger of arrest and deportation, including 30 key members of the union whom have been profiled by the police. The attack on the ETU-MB is an undisguised and flagrant suppression of these workers' right to organize freely. The attack is slated to commence on May 26th and is expected to end on May 30th - one day before the World Cup is to begin. According to Yi Yoon Joo, Chief of the ETU-MB, "this savagely fierce disposition of Korean government to the migrants contributing to its economy is condemnable. The attack to our members in Masok is an attack to the workers union, the ETU-MB and human rights. And the attack to the ETU-MB is a direct attack to the migrant workers in general".
Its very ironic that currently, the Korean government is feverishly promoting a "friendship with foreigners, and tourists" campaign, a highly hypocritical stance considering their unjust attack on foreign workers upon which the Korean economy heavily depends. Banners warmly welcoming tourists and World Cup spectators cheers everywhere, while grimly assaults the undocumented migrants.
"With this, the Korean Government creates two faces during the World Cup. One is the joyously cordiality for foreign tourist and the other is the sinister attacks to migrants workers", Yi Yoon Joo added.
△ Yi-Yoon Joo, Chief, Equality Trade Union-Migrants Branch
2002 / -0 / 6-