250 Koreans Demonstrate on International Migrants Day
around 100 protestors gathered in front of the Seoul Immigration Office, shouting "Abolish trainee system! Achieve labour rights! Stop crackdown on migrant workers!", with pickets in various different languages of migrant workers in Korea.
Source :  Policy & Information Center for International Solidarity
On 18th December 2001, about 250 workers, trade unionists, activists and students demonstrated in front of 4 regional immigration offices around Korea. Organised by the Seoul Gyeonggi Incheon Region Equality Trade Union Migrants' Branch (ETU-MB), around 100 protestors gathered in front of the Seoul Immigration Office, shouting "Abolish trainee system! Achieve labour rights! Stop crackdown on migrant workers!", with pickets in various different languages of migrant workers in Korea.
The ETU-MB had concentrated its struggles for labour rights of migrant workers during the last few days running up to 18th December - a symbolic day commemorating the UN adoption of the International Convention on the Protection of the Human Rights of All Migrants Workers and Their Families.
Speakers deplored the fact that although that a decade had passed since the UN Convention, the Korean government had been reluctant to ratify it, let alone legislate definite policies on the issue of migrant workers. One speaker commented, "the policy of the present government on migrant workers is having no policy" and "it is a complete disgrace that Korea boasts a GNP per capita of 10,000 dollars, when that wealth has actually been accumulated through exploiting the blood and sweat of migrant workers, who work 12 hours a day for a petty wage, living locked inside dormitories or hidden away in container boxes."
The president of the ETU-MB, Lee Yoon-Joo, who mediated the demonstration, read out from some of the postcards that the migrant workers had written. There were messages that read "We are not animals, we are humans" or "President Kim Dae-Jung should return his Nobel Peace Prize and get a Prize for Violence!". She said, "I hope that migrant workers themselves can come and stand here soon", referring to the fact that only Korean activists were able to come out to struggle because of the danger of migrant workers showing up in front of the immigration office.
After repeating slogans such as 'workers of the world unite, and struggle for workers' rights!" the demonstration finished off and participants implemented a public campaign in the city center area and inside subway trains, while representatives went to the Presidential Offices to hand in postcards written by migrant workers and also a letter of protest demanding for the government to legislate laws to ensure labour rights of migrant workers and to ratify the UN Convention.
Ever since the government started its crackdown in June, thousands of migrant workers have undergone suppression and forced deportation. The workers are living in constant fear of arrest and deportation, while having to work in appalling hazardous conditions. The government has maintained its policy of 'no policy', precisely because the illegal status of migrant workers is the basis for their exploitation. As for the registered few, migrant workers are categorised as 'trainees', enabling employers to effectively evade giving them recognition and rights as workers. It is important for the Korean workers movement to form solidarity with migrant workers, especially in an era where a vast majority of the working class is falling prey to the neo-liberal policy of labour flexibility. This involves, among many things, constant reflection upon itself to overcome the racist and sexist ideological propaganda -especially effective in a confucian society- of the bourgeoisie, and fighting together against the specific conditions that migrant and women workers (who both form the base of the labour force strata) are placed in.
Policy & Information Center for International Solidarity
2001 / -1 / 2-