[Reportage] The human toll of an era that uses the impoverished as disposable commodities(hankyoreh)

“Foreign nationals accounted for nine of the 195 people who died without surviving family or friends at Incheon Medical Center between 2001 and 2017. Their deaths offer a glimpse at an era where the world takes advantage of cheap labor by impoverished people. The global migrations of workers, fragmenting of national identity, and relationship between death and a life of poverty are faintly visible in the last marks these people left on the world when they passed away.”

#Globalization #migration #labor

Original Article from https://bit.ly/2HS45St

Migrant workers sacrifice for a society they will never truly become a part of

Migrant workers gather in front of Jongno Tower in Seoul on World Migrant Workers’ Day, Dec. 18, 2003, to commemorate those killed during the government’s forced deportation crackdown that year. At the far left is a photo of Burkhon, an Uzbek man who died in 2003. (by Kim Jin-su, staff photographer)
Foreign nationals accounted for nine of the 195 people who died without surviving family or friends at Incheon Medical Center between 2001 and 2017. Their deaths offer a glimpse at an era where the world takes advantage of cheap labor by impoverished people. The global migrations of workers, fragmenting of national identity, and relationship between death and a life of poverty are faintly visible in the last marks these people left on the world when they passed away. For the first time, the Hankyoreh is giving voices to the people who put food on our tables, operate our factories, and sustain our day-to-day lives – without ever becoming “one of us.”
My name is Burkhon
I, an Uzbek man who died in 2003 at the age of 50, died on the “outside” from the rest of you. Unable to cross over among you while I was alive, I was forced to roam the outside even after I died, unable to come to rest in your city.Do spirits make a sound? A dog was loudly barking off to one corner of the darkening lumber factory in the Songhyeon neighborhood of Incheon’s Dong (East) district. While I was alive, I was always treated with wariness. I was rejected, policed, hunted. Even after I passed away, I flinched and shrank each time the city growled.
I am the abused
The factory boss came out of the container box office to quiet the dog. Fifteen years have passed, but the boss – now 46 – is still younger than I was when I died. That winter [in 2003], I had come to the lumber factory because I did not know where else to go. Having lost my job in a strange city, the only place I could turn was the factory where my nephew worked.
I was driven out when the South Korean government launched a large-scale crackdown [tracking down and expelling unregistered migrant workers during the adoption of an employment permit system in place of the “industry trainee system” that had been criticized as a “slave training system” since its 1993 implementation]. No sooner had they announced that employers would also be punished for the illegal hiring of foreign nationals than the company [not the lumber factory] forced me to pack my bags. Four months after arriving that July on a tourist visa, I had lost my place of residence and become a fugitive.
The boss opened the door to a bathroom fashioned from a container box. Now as old as the number of years since my passing [the lumber factory relocated to its current location a few months after Burkhon’s death], it seemed about to crumble in its old age the way I had crumbled similarly. The factory was still there, but it was not the same. Lumber was sparse in the factory yard. There were no after-hours volumes, no overtime work. I could not see any non-Korean workers; only a few of the Korean workers were older than I was at the time [all 60 years or older].
The hunting dog followed the scent. Whenever I trembled in fear of being hunted down for being an illegal alien, I heard the sound of barking. Sometimes the noise of the city and the muttering of people that surrounded me in this land whose language I did not speak sounded like a wild beast hidden in the forest. I came to South Korea at the age of 50 after giving US$5,000 to a broker in Samarkand [a city in central Uzbekistan]. If I returned without paying back my debt, my family and I would have no present, let alone a future. Carrying my luggage, I visited the factories where my Uzbek friends were working, but I was unable to find any work for myself.
When I returned to this factory a week after they rejected my application for work, my nephew’s friend reminded me of what the factory boss had said: “We can’t use illegal aliens right now. I can’t even let them into the factory dormitory.”
I was not allowed “inside,” and it was so cold “outside.” Even worse, it was frightening. I told my nephew’s friend I would go back to Uzbekistan the next day and then turned to go. The time-worn door to the bathroom creaked every time it moved, as if marked by memories from 15 years ago. There was an acrid smell in the bathroom from the gas emitted by a heater left on to keep the pipes from bursting. Both then and now, the bathroom was too shabby to be someone’s last place on earth.
After ten days of being chased from place to place [2 am on Nov. 25, 2003], I died in this bathroom. My body was found by the factory workers, hanging from a rope I had attached to the bathroom door. A crumpled plane ticket that I had been fidgeting with for several days turned up in my crumpled clothing.
I was the fourth person to kill himself around the time of the crackdown. The other three were already waiting for me in the spirit world. Darka, a 31-year-old Sri Lankan man, threw himself onto the train tracks on Nov. 11 out of despair for no longer being able to send money to cover his ailing mother’s medical bills.Bikku, a 34-year-old Bangladeshi man, hung himself on Nov. 12. Still owing 4 million won (US$3,700) of the 10 million won (US$9,300) loan he had taken out when he came to South Korea with his younger sibling, he decided it would be better to die in South Korea. Andrei, a 37-year-old Russian man, jumped into the sea on a ship bound for Vladivostok that he had been placed aboard after being apprehended in the crackdown.
My poor family could not afford to bring me home. With the help of some Koreans, including Yang Hye-u, then-director of the Korea Migrant Human Rights Center, who had been granted power of attorney by fax, my body was embalmed by students doing a practicum for a degree in mortuary science and loaded in the cargo container of a plane. Ten days into the crackdown, the government announced its “progress”: 1,233 people rounded up and 606 people deported. Two days after my funeral, it launched a second round of the crackdown on Dec. 8.
After coming out of the bathroom, the boss looked up at the red sky. I didn’t die in this bathroom because I resented him for not giving me work. There was just nowhere else where I could die. In the words of the boss, this was a time when “immigration agents were sweeping every factory and rounding up foreigners every day.” After I died, my nephew and his colleagues all left the factory. The boss, who must think of me every time he goes into that bathroom, might even miss that time “when business was going pretty well.” Since I hung myself in the bathroom, I have decayed along with the door, but I’m still unable to go inside the factory.

A bathroom inside the Incheon lumber factory where Burkhon killed himself in 2003. Although 15 years have passed, the appearance remains the same. (by Lee Moon-young, staff reporter)

Am I a person or a thing?
An ambulance took me, a 38-year-old ethnic Korean from China, who died in March 2003, from a factory 2.2km away from the rusted bathroom to an emergency room for respiratory paralysis and hypoxic brain injury. Born in a village of ethnic Koreans in the city of Shenyang, in China’s Liaoning Province, I worked at a factory in the Dohwa neighborhood of the Nam (South) District next to an elevated highway in this city. The company boss cut off contact with me without paying my hospital bills, saying that times were tough. A foreman at the factory ducked responsibility, too, claiming he couldn’t do anything because he hadn’t heard from the boss.
I’m a person, but I was “imported” like a product. And once I lost my utility, I was disregarded like a useless thing. My older brother didn’t have the money to pay for my internment. Since he was illiterate, a friend filled out the form on his behalf, promising to pay the hospital bill later, when he got the money. It wasn’t until a month after I died that I was sent to the crematorium.
I was one of nine foreigners who have died in this city without any next of kin. Foreigners accounted for nine of 195 people who died without any connections at the Incheon Metropolitan City Medical Center between 2001 and 2017.
I had been told that this city that was organized according to the needs of the powerful countries that forced Korea to open up two centuries before was called Incheon. Japan, Qing China, the US, the UK, Germany, Russia and France set up international settlements there.
Now when I die alone in this city, I am either a descendant of those who settled there at that time (two overseas Taiwanese, one Chinese national), a person with a Korean identity who came to the motherland only to be treated as a foreigner (one ethnic Korean in China) or a migrant worker from a poor and weak country (one Uzbek, one Mongolian, one Nepalese, one Burmese and one Ugandan].
Why am I – a person whose manner of death speaks to the hardship of my life – always from “those countries”? Why is it only people from those countries who die as “foreigners without connections” in this city?As of the end of 2016, there were 59,103 foreigners registered as living in Incheon: 25,665 (43.4%) from China, 6,536 (11.0%) from Vietnam, 2,852 (4.8%) from the Philippines, 2,609 (4.4%) from Taiwan, 2,047 (3.4%) from Indonesia, 1,920 (3.2%) from Thailand and 1,010 (1.7%) from Bangladesh. Why am I never from the US (998, 1.6%), Japan (913, 1.5%)or the UK or Canada (272, 0.4%)?Why do they still call me a “foreign son-of-a-bitch” when I take on the hardest labor to keep the city’s factories running? (12,056, or 20.3%, are in Namdong District, the location of Namdong Industrial Park; 11,627, or 19.6% are in Seo District, the location of Geomdan Industrial Park and the lumber center; and 10,933, or 18.4%, are in Bupyeong District, the location of Bupyeong Industrial Park.)
I, a 51-year-old Taiwanese national in the Chinese diaspora, died in 2011 without belonging to anything. Born in the Chinese city of Dalian, my father came to this city in 1939, at the age of 16. When his country was divided between the mainland and the island, he chose the island. His five sons and daughters were all born in South Korea and spent their entire lives there, but we all remained Taiwanese, just like our father. My ancestors had settled in this city as subjects of the treaty signatory (Qing dynasty China) more than two centuries before.With the passage of time, confusion about Chinese nationals, Taiwanese nationals and Chinese in the overseas community, some of whom had retained their original nationality and some who had naturalized, left blind spots in South Korea’s laws and institutions. As the second son, I was the only one of my siblings to complete middle school. The only identity I clung to was my poverty. When I died, the only member of my family who heard the news was my older brother, and he declined to take responsibility for my body. He lived on the streets.
I, a 58-year-old overseas Chinese man with Taiwanese nationality who died in 2015, lived on the streets, too. I died surrounded by a terrible stench. This stench was an intangible wall that divided two worlds. I was taken to a hospital for hypoxic brain injury from the second basement level of the parking garage at a department store in the Gwangyo neighborhood of the Nam (South) District.I was disturbed by the fragrance of mouthwatering food wafting down from the first basement level, while the imported fragrances on the first floor were beautiful enough to conceal even the rank odor of my body. I couldn’t remember why I had gone there – whether because of the hunger or the cold. I spent my life with Korean homeless people around Incheon Munhak Stadium and crawled between two cars parked at the department store to die. The cheers rising from the stadium were so loud, and the laughter filling the department store was so bright. The stench of the street on my body brought scowls to the faces of customers, which confirmed that this was a world I could not enter.
I’m an employee of the world
While I, a 40-year-old Nepalese man who died in 2011, was living on the streets in Seoul, I heard about a free restaurant (the Dandelion Noodle Shop in the Hwasu neighborhood of Dong District) from an old man named Jang and followed him to Incheon. I came to South Korea in the early 1990s to make money. As an industrial trainee, but I came down with a heart condition. After getting sick, I couldn’t find any more work, nor could I return home with a disease instead of money.Every time Koreans were amazed to see this big, dark-skinned Nepalese homeless man, I grew a little bigger, and my skin became a little darker. I was lucky to lie down in a room with the help from the owner of the noodle restaurant before I became as large as a “black dinosaur.” I died “with a slight smile on my face and earphones in my ears one night after I came back from seeing some friends,” in the words of Seo Yeong-nam, owner of Dandelion Noodle Shop.
Instead of being loaded on a plane bound for Nepal, my body was reduced to ashes in this city. I had no home to return to. After I got sick in South Korea, lost my job and couldn’t wire any money, my relatives back home whose livelihood rested on my shoulders scattered in all directions.
I died without being able to escape the yoke of cheap labor. I, a Burmese man who died a violent death in 2013, joined the crew of a South Korean ship at the age of 60. Seven months later, my dead body was brought back to dry land. I, a 28-year-old Mongolian man, died in a traffic accident on the street in front of a vocational school [in 2013] and was sent to my younger sibling who worked in Paju, in Gyeonggi Province.I have been employed in all countries for cheap wages. South Korea, a major destination of migrant workers, has long opened its doors to migrant workers from around the world. My death occurred during that process, and my homeless life was “globalized” on that road. (“Since 2010, the number of foreigners visiting the noodle shop has greatly increased and their nationalities have also become more varied, including Chile, Brazil and India,” said Seo Yeong-nam.)
I have continued to die. Filled with despair over Burkhon’s death, I went to Myeongdong Cathedral with other migrant workers and held a sit-in there for 380 days (Nov. 15, 2003, to Nov. 28, 2004), but there was no end to the dying. I fell to my death when trying to jump to the roof of the next building to escape immigration agents. I died along with Nur Fuad, an Indonesian, when a fire broke out at a foreigner detention center in Yeosu and the staff didn’t open the doors (in total, 10 Chinese, ethnic Koreans, and Uzbeks in 2007 perished in the blaze.)
As I awaited my deportation, I killed myself by shooting myself in the head 33 times with a nail gun (Nguyen Van Thanh, Vietnamese, in 2008). I was asphyxiated while cleaning up pig feces without any safety equipment (four people from Nepal, China and Thailand in 2017), and I killed myself out of despair over a system that kept me from changing jobs without my boss’s consent (Keshav Shrestha, Nepalese, in 2017 – this is one of the most notorious problems with the employment permit system).In the city of Incheon, I worked in all areas of migrant labor. In the words of Kim Ki-dong, former secretary-general of the Korea Migrant Human Rights Center, “Incheon is a microcosm of the migrant situation in South Korea.”In this city, I ploughed the fields (agricultural migrant labor), raised cattle (livestock migrant labor), sailed on ships (shipping crew migrant labor) and worked in factories (manufacturing migrant labor). Without my work, your tables would not be set, your cities would lack amenities and even the reproduction of your families and nation (immigrant spouses) would be in danger. Even though I sustain your daily lives, I’ve never been welcome in your country. There’s always an unyielding line before of my feet over which I’m not allowed to cross.
I’m Burkhon.
Even after becoming a ghost, I’m still trapped outside of you.
By Lee Moon-young, staff reporter

Doctor’s plea: ‘Don’t crack down on foreign TB patients'(TheKoreaTimes)

* Korea has the highest incidence rate of TB among members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In 2014, South Korea marked a TB incidence rate of 86 patients per 100,000, seven times higher than the average rate of the developed nations.

* A reporter and the doctor’s narrative being racist enough, but the doctor from  Korean Institute of Tuberculosis’ program claims that treatment of foreign TB patient is necessary and desirable.

#Foreign_patient #Tuberculosis #Korea

Image result for korea tb foreigners

Original Article from: https://bit.ly/2qRES2o
Over 2,000 foreigners are taking advantage of free tuberculosis (TB) treatment, eating away at taxpayers’ money, but cracking down on them is not the answer, a doctor has told The Korea Times.

“If you pursue those freeloaders, they would go underground and run the higher risk of spreading the disease,” Oh Kyung-hyun, head of the state-run Korean Institute of Tuberculosis’ program cooperation department, said. “So treating them at our expense is better for our national health.”

TB is a contagious disease, the treatment of which is 100 percent covered by the government, even if the person does not subscribe to national health insurance.

Korea has the highest rate of TB among the rich OECD member nations.

Foreigners accounted for 6 percent of patients in 2017, 0.5 percent down from the previous year, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC). They include long-term resident foreigners who pay medical insurance and those on short-term visas who don’t.

The ratio has risen from 2.4 percent in 2011 to 6.54 percent in 2016.

The bulk of newly diagnosed patients are older people, who accounted for 41.9 percent last year, up 2 percent from the previous year.

The KCDC said it is establishing a new TB control plan for 2018 to 2022, targeting vulnerable groups including foreigners and the elderly.

Under the current policy, foreigners on tourist visas do not need to submit a medical certificate to enter the country. They can get free TB treatment in national hospitals.

Those who visit the country for more than 90 days need to pay health insurance for three months period in advance.

“The issue of foreigners getting free treatment needs to be dealt with at a bilateral level between the Korean government and other countries, where the patients come from,” the doctor said.



Samsung sues government over release of a report on the company’s semiconductor facilities(Hankyoreh)

Still, South Korea’s Samsung Electronics has denied withholding crucial information from workers about which chemicals they have been exposed to at its factories.

#Samsung #business_secret #occupational_disease #Bannolim

Original Article from: https://bit.ly/2IUFbkr


Labor experts dismiss company’s claims that the release jeopardized its business secrets

The workers’ rights group Bannolim, which includes family members of former Samsung employees who were sickened with occupational diseases while working at the company’s semiconductor facilities, demonstrates outside the Seoul Central District Court during the first trial of Samsung Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong on Oct. 12. (by Baek So-ah, staff photographer)

Controversy continues over a report measuring the work environment at Samsung’s semiconductor factories. While South Korea’s Ministry of Employment and Labor continues to maintain that releasing the report was necessary to expedite the compensation of the victims of industrial accidents, Samsung Electronics countered by suing the Ministry for releasing the report to the victims and arguing that the report includes business secrets. But several experts in the field of occupational health find Samsung’s arguments hard to believe.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act requires workplaces dealing with hazardous chemicals to have their work environment measured by an external organization with professional credentials at least once every six months. The resulting report covers the usage of chemicals in each industrial process, a chart showing the location where harmful chemicals were measured for each work site, the measurement of those harmful chemicals and the amount of time that workers are exposed to those harmful chemicals. The workplace in question must display the report so that workers can read it and must also submit it to the local employment and labor board.
Samsung contends that the measured location chart could be used to ascertain the arrangement and sequence of its industrial processes and that the measurement of harmful materials could be used to determine what chemicals are not used by other companies.
But experts describe Samsung’s claims as preposterous. “Since the measured location chart is basically designed to confirm at what point harmful chemicals appeared, it’s little more than vertical lines drawn in a box. The work process chart that the company provides the measuring organization does not include any secret information and only contains the general location,” Yun Chung-sik, a professor of occupational health at the Graduate School of Public Health at Seoul National University, told the Hankyoreh over the phone on Apr. 10.
“The mixture ratio of the chemicals and other matters that Samsung claims are business secrets could not be determined from the report. Samsung needs to specifically explain how the report would compromise its business secrets,” said Park Dong-uk, a professor of environmental health at Korea National Open University.
Another observation is that since the work environment is measured by an external organization selected by the company, it is impossible for business secrets to appear in the report.“There are times when a company does not even provide the measuring organization with the current status of its production equipment because it regards this as a business secret. The most important thing in the report is the amount of the chemicals, and I find myself wondering whether Samsung is reluctant to release the report because the amount written there is excessive or sloppy,” said the president of a work environment measuring organization with 25 years of experience in the field who wished to remain anonymous.
A court has already ruled that the release of a similar report was appropriate based on a “fact check” that it requested from the Korean Industrial Hygiene Association. In February, the bereaved family members of a victim of an industrial accident filed a lawsuit in February demanding that the Cheonan branch of the Daejeon local employment and labor board release the work environment measurement report for Samsung Electronics’ Onyang factory. In this lawsuit, the Daejeon High Court dismissed concerns that releasing the measured location chart would significantly harm Samsung Electronics’ legitimate profits by leaking technical information about the company’s production methods or by allowing information about the company’s production ability to be exploited by its partners or competitors.
By Park Tae-woo, staff reporter

Bills seek better definition of rape(The Korea Times)

“United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) called on Seoul to revise the definition of rape.”

“However, society should start talks to define the meaning of yes and no. Koreans have never discussed what mutual consent in a sexual relationship is, which has led to many violent situations between partners,”

#sexual_violence  #rape_definition #women_trafficking_culture #Korea

Original Article from:  https://goo.gl/Rkvrcm


Protesters take part in a street parade in central Seoul, March 8, on the occasion of International Women’s Day. / Yonhap

By Choi Ha-young

Following a series of #MeToo claims here, politicians are competitively creating bills aimed at preventing sexual crimes and strengthening criminal punishment for assailants. Among them, some to feature revising the definition of rape in existing criminal law that rape should involve “violence or intimidation.”

Based on the definition, local courts have acquitted some alleged rapists citing a lack of violence. To prove that the violence or intimidation made the victim unable to resist, victims were required to attempt to resist to the bitter end ― which could put their lives at stake.

Last month, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) called on Seoul to revise the definition of rape. “Amend article 297 of the Criminal Code so as to place the lack of free consent of the victim at the centre of the definition,” a report published by CEDAW reads.

The most powerful bill that echoes the point is the one created by Rep. Kang Chang-il of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea. Rep. Kang’s bill replaced “violence and intimidation” with “without clear consent of counterpart.”

“So far, whether the victim protested against the assailant or not has been the center of the allegation, which has caused secondary damage for the victims,” the lawmaker said in the revision bill.

Conservative lawmakers also joined the move.

Rep. Lee Hag-jae of the minor center-right Bareun Mirae Party is drawing up a similar bill. Instead of using the term “rape and sexual molestation,” the bill proposed using “invasion of rights to self-determination over sexuality.” The envisioned change aims to highlight individuals’ rights to make independent choices.

Rep. Lee also offered to revise the definition of rape ― “having sexual relations with another without consent.”

Another bill submitted by Rep. Hong Chul-ho of the Liberty Korea Party defined rape as a sexual relation that involves “violation or intimidation” or actions “against someone’s will.”

These bills are commonly based on the idea of “yes means yes, no means no” as do laws in Germany, Canada and the United Kingdom.

According to the report published by the National Assembly Research Service, Germany previously required “violation and intimidation” as a legal condition of rape. After the revision was made in November 2016, Germany defines rape as a “sexual relation against victims’ expression.” Sweden is also pushing for revision bills to stipulate “without consent” instead of “violation and intimidation,” the report reads.

The tricky issue is “what does yes mean?” In Korea, where the influence of Confucianism remains dominant, women are required to stay “pure and chaste,” said Hongik University Law Professor Spiritas Cho.

Such cultural inclinations are palpable in love scenes in K-dramas. When they fall in love, men are supposed to lead the relationships ― sometimes using force ― while women are reluctant to be courted. Female characters who initially refused to kiss male characters end up agreeing. This is not a matter of gender, considering many screenwriters of such dramas are women.

In this respect, Cho said the revision of the laws should accompany a fundamental shift in our approach to sexuality. “Women must be able to express their sexuality and their sexual desires freely and clearly, not to be ostracized for that socially and culturally,” Cho said.

Still, negative comments are flooding online communities regarding the bid to revise the criminal law. When Minister of Gender Equality and Family Chung Hyun-back indicated her agreement with such a revision, some netizens sarcastically commented: “Now couples should exchange written contracts.”

Lee Mi-kyeong, director of Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center, who provided advice in designing Kang’s bill, admitted the envisioned changes would bring some confusion for a while.

“However, society should start talks to define the meaning of yes and no. Koreans have never discussed what mutual consent in a sexual relationship is, which has led to many violent situations between partners,” Lee said.

“It’s time to reflect on our attitudes and make efforts to respect each other,” she noted.

South Korean companies’ treatment of workforce in ASEAN countries raising concerns (Hankyoreh)

“In ASEAN countries, South Korean companies disregard health and safety regulations and churn out unstable jobs on short contracts or through illegal temp agencies. When workers take collective action or attempt to set up a union, these companies threaten them with termination or with various criminal charges,”

#SouthKoreanCompanies #labor_oppression #labor_right #노동탄압도_수출품목

Original Article from: http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_international/838530.html

Labor groups want the Moon administration to consider workers rights as part of the New Southern Policy

After South Korean President Moon Jae-in declared that he would create a close trading and investment relationship with the countries of ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) through his New Southern Policy, concerns are being raised about South Korean companies violating workers’ rights in ASEAN countries.

On Mar. 29, South Korea’s two national trade unions (the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions and Federation of Korean Trade Unions), the South Korean offices of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation held a press conference at the Francisco Building in downtown Seoul to call on the Moon administration to consider human rights issues in its New Southern Policy and to institute laws and policies that ensure that South Korean companies moving into ASEAN countries guarantee human rights and labor rights.
According to the information made public during the press conference, a large number of ASEAN workers who are working for South Korean companies face long working hours, late pay and unfair termination, but these companies’ unscrupulous labor practices make it difficult to organize a union. “In ASEAN countries, South Korean companies disregard health and safety regulations and churn out unstable jobs on short contracts or through illegal temp agencies. When workers take collective action or attempt to set up a union, these companies threaten them with termination or with various criminal charges,” said Monina Wong, who handles basic labor rights for the ITUC.
According to the groups at the press conference, South Korean companies that notice any signs of a union being established try to “nip it in the bud.” “Early this year, South Korean clothing company Gawon Apparel had not paid wages or given the union the money withheld from workers’ wages as dues for two months. When the workers went on strike because of this, all 588 of them were let go,” said Pret So Uot, an attorney with the Cambodian Labour Confederation. Similarly, when workers for a South Korean sock company with a factory in Myanmar asked the company to negotiate about guaranteeing their labor rights last March, all 76 of them were fired.
Among various South Korean companies, Samsung Electronics is notorious for sticking to its “no union” policy in ASEAN countries. “When 13 employees attempted to set up a labor union at a Samsung Electronics television factory in Indonesia in 2012, the company immediately fired all of them and even sent people to their houses to intimidate them. And later when workers at a Samsung subcontractor tried to organize a union, the Samsung headquarters in South Korea notified all the company’s subcontractors in Indonesia that they would lose their contracts if they created unions,” said Prihanani Boenadi, vice president of the International Department for the Confederation of Indonesian Workers’ Unions.
Workers rights’ violations increase in tandem with South Korean investment
These examples of workers’ rights violations appear to be increasing as South Korea steps up investment in ASEAN countries. “South Korea has an overwhelming lead among when it comes to the number of strikes that have occurred over the past five years at foreign companies operating in Vietnam,” said Kim Tituha, who is in charge of labor rights at the Center for Development and Integration, a non-profit organization in Vietnam.
Others point out that South Korean companies exploit the fact that the rule of law is not functioning properly and that basic labor rights are not adequately guaranteed in ASEAN countries. “Even when Myanmar’s labor board and arbitration committee ruled that a firing was unfair and order the company in question to reinstate the workers, it’s useless. The company can get off the hook by paying a fine of about US$700,” said Khaing Zar Aung, assistant general secretary for the Industrial Workers Federation of Myanmar. The conclusion reached by ASEAN labor activists is that ASEAN countries are reluctant to impose legal sanctions on scofflaw South Korean companies because those countries need South Korean investment.
The only place to which ASEAN residents working for South Korean companies can turn is the OECD National Contact Point (NCP). The NCPs, which have been set up in various countries according to the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises are supposed to deal with conflicts involving multinational enterprises by making recommendations and mediating and arbitrating complaints. The OECD enacted the NCPs in 1976 to prevent multinational enterprises from committing human rights violations. Since the South Korean NCP was established in 2000, however, only 31 cases have been officially referred to it, and not one of those has been resolved.
“Procedural transparency needs to be enhanced by adding members of labor unions and civic groups to the committee of South Korea’s NCP, which is under the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy,” advised Joanna Coronacion, an activist for SENTRO.
While companies operating overseas cannot be sanctioned under South Korean law, this does not mean that nothing can be done. “We need to set up a national action plan for companies and human rights as the UN has already recommended. Institutional changes also need to be made to cut off various kinds of support – including national pension, loans and subsidies – for companies that are implicated in harming the environment or committing human rights violations,” said Jung Shin-yeong, a lawyer with Advocates for Public Interest Law (APIL).
By Lee Ji-hye, staff reporter

South Korea scores symbolic victories in negotiations over KORUS FTA(Hankyoreh)

What does US’s victory about pharmaceutical pricing system mean to Korean people and healthcare system?

Does idea of “free-trade” more important than efficient purchasing of single-payer system to assure medicine access to all?


“Another major victory for the US is the agreement to hold additional negotiations to revise South Korea’s pharmaceutical pricing system for innovative medicine from around the world. American pharmaceutical firms have repeatedly complained that the price of medicine is set too low by South Korea’s national health insurance.”


#KORUS-FTA #pharmaceutical_pricing #newdrug #medicine #Free_Trade


Original Article from: https://goo.gl/BsPBKU



US receives concessions on automobile import restrictions and prescription drug pricing

South Korean Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong takes a drink of water during a briefing to discuss the results of the KORUS FTA revision agreements at the Central Government Complex in Seoul on Mar. 26. (by Baek So-ah, staff photographer)

While presenting results of the negotiations to revise the South Korea-US Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) at the Central Government Complex in Seoul on Mar. 26, South Korean Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong said that South Korean negotiators had protected the nation’s interests. “We participated in the negotiations more with the aim of defending the national interest than of protecting the KORUS FTA. We gave ground where appropriate while securing our interests [in the agreement],” Kim told reporters.


South Korea had found itself at a disadvantage in the negotiations because of the major divide between the two countries from the outset of the negotiations, which was compounded by American tariffs on steel. Despite these circumstances, Kim said, the negotiators managed to protect the South Korean market as best they could.


As Kim said, balancing the two sides’ interests was not an easy proposition in the negotiations, which were launched because of the US’s unilateral demand for and objective of “resolving the trade imbalance.” But a close look at the final tally of the negotiations also suggests that South Korea won the symbolic victories, while the US pocketed the practical benefits. South Korea received assurances about securing import quotas for steel and institutional and procedural improvements for investor-state dispute settlements (ISDS) and trade remedies. The US, on the other hand, received concessions that will have an immediate effect, such as easing import restrictions on automobiles and improving the pricing system for new drugs.


South Korea is the first country exporting steel to the US to secure a steel import quota (70%, or 2.68 million tons, of average yearly exports between 2015 and 2017). While accepting some of the US’s demands about American automobiles and pharmaceuticals, South Korea basically managed to arrange the first deal on steel. But a senior official from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said, “We initially wanted to secure a tariff-rate quota that would give us a steel quota and allow us to export the volume above that the quota to the American market with a tariff of 25%, but that didn’t work out.” The volume of steel exports will fall to 70% of the volume of previous years, and no more exports will be allowed after the quota has been reached. “This resolved the instability and the unpredictability faced by exporting companies,” Kim said when asked about the swift settlement of the steel issue.


One view is that the pros and cons of the steel import quota, which is limited to 70% of the average imports over the past three years, must be compared with the alternative scenario in which the tariffs take effect.“The South Korean steel industry preferred the quotas to the tariffs. If the countries exempted from the tariffs and the exempted categories increase in the future, President Trump is likely to raise the tariffs higher than 25% in order to achieve his import reduction goals. In that situation, we would have been forced to quickly get off the list of countries facing thethe tariffs. We can only export 70% of the previous volume, but if the price of steel in the US rises because of the imposition of tariffs, the value of South Korean steel makers’ exports might actually increase,” a spokesperson for the Ministry said.


The decision to relax environmental and safety standards for automobiles that the US has repeatedly described as non-tariff barriers to trade came as no surprise. South Korea agreed to increase the number of American automobiles that can be imported even if they do not satisfy South Korean safety standards (about the color of turn signals, for example) as long as they satisfy American standards from the current level of 25,000 vehicles per company to 50,000 vehicles.“While we increased the number to 50,000, the actual number of vehicles imported each year by the US’s three big automakers is below 10,000, so [50,000] has no effect on the actual import volume,” Kim said. But others argue that South Korea gave major concessions on automobiles in order to reach an agreement on steel. When calculating South Korea’s costs, it is also necessary to include the government’s and various industries’ sharp increase in imports of American products and their expansion of investment in the US, which were aimed at highlighting the FTA’s benefits.


20 year extension on tariffs for Korean pickup trucks


Furthermore, the timeframe for repealing the 25% tariff on Korean pickup trucks was extended by 20 years, from 10 years after the KORUS FTA took effect (that is, 2021) until 2041. “At the moment, basically no pickup trucks are being exported to the US,” Kim noted.But in Kim’s book Talking about the KORUS-FTA, when he played up the importance of ending the tariff on pickups. “We aren’t currently manufacturing pickup trucks, but we will be in the future. The important thing is that [the US’s] high tariff of 25% on pickup trucks must be lowered so that we can attract investment,” he wrote. In effect, the extension of the timeframe greatly reduces the likelihood of South Korean companies breaking into the growing US pickup truck market.


Another major victory for the US is the agreement to hold additional negotiations to revise South Korea’s pharmaceutical pricing system for innovative medicine from around the world. American pharmaceutical firms have repeatedly complained that the price of medicine is set too low by South Korea’s national health insurance.


Among South Korea’s gains, one of the more notable is the improvement of the system for settling investor-state disputes. The two sides agreed to include in the revised agreement a provision to prevent investors who have invested capital in the other country from filing frivolous disputes and to ensure that the two governments’ due sovereignty over policy is not infringed.


There will also be the addition of a section to ensure procedural transparency, such as releasing documents from local anti-dumping investigations, when either side initiates trade remedies (that is, import restrictions). This measure is designed to provide a way of dodging or blunting trade pressure from the US. But Kim said, “The results of the negotiations do not allow us to say categorically that the US trade risk has markedly decreased, and trade pressure is likely to continue for the rest of Trump’s time in office.”


The specifics of the revisions of the ISDS and trade remedy systems will be made public when the revised agreement is officially signed, following additional deliberations with the US.

By Cho Kye-wan, staff reporter

Humiliated’ nurses forced to perform erotic dance for top officials by South Korea hospital (International Business times)

The issue of the working condition of Korean health workers, especially the nurses, continues to be revealed. Following last month’s unveiling of nurses who were illegally paid wages below the minimum wage in their early employment, some hospitals have recently been found to be treating their workers insultingly. The suffering of nurses’ working condition in Korea seems to be arising from Korea’s harsh labor culture, the authoritarian hierarchy of the medical organization and widespread sexualization of women.

#health_worker #nurses #working_condition #stop_sexualize #Korea

  • South Korean nurses allegedly forced to dance in front of high-ranking officials.

  • Korean Nurses Association calls for investigation into Sacred Heart Hospital of Hallym University.

south Korea nurses
Nurses complained of feeling ‘humiliated’ after performing onstage Screengrab/YTN


A South Korean hospital is under investigation for allegedly making its nurses perform a “seductive” dance in front of high-ranking officials at a formal event.

Video footage emerged showing groups of woman in skimpy outfits on stage, sparking outrage after it was widely shared online.

Nurses at the Sacred Heart Hospital of Hallym University claim they were forced to take part in the erotic dance in front of more than 1,000 co-workers and hospital officials during an annual sports competition in October.

The footage was uploaded by a whistleblower onto Facebook, who also suggested it is not the first time this has happened.

According to Korea Times, the nurse wrote: “Those forced to dance are usually the newly hired nurses, who are unable to refuse such orders. We are forced to dance in front of high-ranking officials of the firm who sit side-by-side at a long table.

Other nurses have also come forward on social media to claim they were encouraged to make sexually suggestive faces while performing the dance.

“During practice, managers at the Nursing Department would give instructions on making seductive gestures and facial expressions,” one nurse wrote.

Another added: “Some nurses even cried to express their extreme humiliation, but officials would always brush this off, saying they are making a big deal out of something everyone does.

“It is devastating to hear the hospital officials claimed they did not know about the situation after this finally got out.”

South Korea nurses
Footage of the South Korea nurses dancing was uploaded to Facebook Screengrab YTN

The Korean Nurses Association has called for an investigation into what the allegations surrounding Hallym University’s Sacred Heart Hospital.

It said in a statement: “This is a grave challenge to the vocation and self-esteem of nurses.

“There are numerous nurses who endure an intense workload, low paycheck and frequent overtime with their sense of duty and vocation. Considering this, the scandal was defamatory and offensive to these nurses.”

The Ministry of Employment and Labor confirmed an inquiry in under way.

A spokesperson told the Korea Times: “If we find legal problems, we will summon the hospital officials responsible.”

Seventy percent of part-time workers complain of work-related illnesses (Koreaherald)

#exhaution #work_related_illness #Albamon #Korea

“… a jobs portal, polled 2,054 part-time employees from Nov. 1-3 and found that 72 percent had complaints about various physical conditions due to their work. ”


Original Article from : http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20171106000283&ACE_SEARCH=1

Seven out of 10 part-time workers said they are suffering from job-related illnesses, mostly chronic exhaustion, in a survey released Monday.

Albamon, a jobs portal, polled 2,054 part-time employees from Nov. 1-3 and found that 72 percent had complaints about various physical conditions due to their work. Health problems were reported by 74.5 percent of those employed in the services industry, followed by 72.3 percent in sales, 69.9 percent in production and physical labor, and 61.6 percent in administrative work, IT and design.


Chronic exhaustion was cited by 58.2 percent of those polled, where multiple answers were allowed. Another 48.5 percent complained of swollen legs from having to work standing up all day.

Thirty-nine percent said they had symptoms of arthritis or muscle pain, 28.1 percent said they had indigestion, and 26.6 percent had pains in the wrists or shoulders. Another 15.2 percent complained of migraine headaches and 13.4 percent had trouble sleeping. (Yonhap)

Semiconductor workers’ seek acknowledgement of industrial accident status

#Banollim #Industrial_Accident #Samsung #worker’s_health

“In August, the Supreme Court sided with the plaintiff in a case filed by a former Samsung Electronics worker demanding industrial accident acknowledgment for their multiple sclerosis. Citing the principle of “relieving the burden of proof,” the court overturned an earlier court decision to dismiss the case on the grounds that the correlation between the worker’s duties and the illness was inadequately proven.”

Original Article from : http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_national/817039.html


The semiconductor worker health and human rights watchdog group Banollim holds a press conference on Oct. 31 at the southern Seoul branch of the Korea Workers‘ Compensation and Welfare Service (K-Comwel) to urge the agency to “quickly acknowledge industrial accident status for workers suffering occupational diseases in the electronics industry.” (provided by Banollim)

Employees in the industry became sick with a variety of illness including leukemia and multiple sclerosis

Seven people who contracted leukemia, lymphoma, multiple sclerosis, and other conditions during or after working for South Korean semiconductor manufacturers, including Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix, applied for acknowledgment of industrial accident status on Oct. 31.

The semiconductor worker health and human rights watchdog group Banollim held a press conference the same day at the southern Seoul branch of the Korea Workers’ Compensation and Welfare Service (K-Comwel) to urge the agency to “quickly acknowledge industrial accident status for workers suffering occupational diseases in the electronics industry.”

Banollim’s request for acknowledgment was the 13th since the group began filing collective requests for leukemia cases at Samsung Electronics employees in Apr. 2008. As of Oct. 31, the group had applied for collective industrial accident acknowledgment for 94 people, but only 22 received it. Of the 393 semiconductor-related occupational disease sufferers reported to Banollim over the past ten years, 144 have already passed away.

In the past, K-Comwel has been reluctant to grant industrial accident acknowledgment, citing a lack of evidence of exposure to carcinogens or clear medical causes for the conditions – effectively placing the burden of proof on the victims. In contrast, Banollim has demanded that industrial accident acknowledgment standards be immediately revised in line with a recent Supreme Court decision, and insisted that acknowledgment be granted in cases of repeated instances of occupational diseases without a long investigation and review process.

In August, the Supreme Court sided with the plaintiff in a case filed by a former Samsung Electronics worker demanding industrial accident acknowledgment for their multiple sclerosis. Citing the principle of “relieving the burden of proof,” the court overturned an earlier court decision to dismiss the case on the grounds that the correlation between the worker’s duties and the illness was inadequately proven. Attention is now turning to the administration as it weighs a changing in policy amid recent court decisions taking a more stance on industrial accident acknowledgment.


By Cho Il-jun, staff reporter

Corruption in the Recruitment Process of Public Institutions While Actual Unemployment Rate Experienced by the Young Peaks (Kyunghyang editorial)

#empoyment #corruption  #SDH #Korea

Original Article from :

The employment rate of people in their twenties continues to fall for the sixth month since April. During that same period, there was no other age group that recorded a negative employment rate. While the employment rate of young people dropped, the unemployment rate in the same age group continued to climb to rates of 9-10%.

According to the September employment trend released by Statistics Korea on October 18, the unemployment rate of young people aged 15-29 dropped 0.2% from a year ago to 9.2%. When we look at the people just in their twenties, the rate is 9.4%. After the unemployment rate of the people in their twenties recorded 8.5% in January this year, it has remained in the 9% level for eight months. When we include the number of people who have given up looking for employment and who are preparing to enter the job market, the actual unemployment rate experienced by the young people climbs to 21.5%, a 0.2% increase from the same period last year. This is the highest level for September since 2015 when related statistics were collected. We are witnessing a situation in which one in every five young people continue to remain unemployed. The situation is the same with the employment rate. The employment rate dropped 0.8% from 58.7% last year to 57.9%. Among the people in their twenties, job-seekers, who are classified as “on a break,” also increased by 31,000 (13.1%) from a year ago.

The decline in youth employment and the increase in the actual unemployment rate experienced by the young people is depressing news indeed for the people preparing to enter the job market, already disappointed at a series of corruption cases in the recruitment of employees by public and financial institutions. In a parliamentary inspection a few days ago, Justice Party lawmaker Sim Sang-jeung raised allegations of corruption in the recruitment of employees at Woori Bank. According to a document titled, “Recommendations for the Public Recruitment of New Employees in 2016,” which Sim released, Woori Bank allegedly recruited sixteen children and relatives of senior officials at the National Intelligence Service and the Financial Supervisory Service and of VIP customers when hiring new workers last year. The document included the personal information of the people who were suspected of having made the solicitation under the column for “relevant information,” as well as the personal information of the applicants, such as name, age, gender, and educational background. The name and position of the Woori Bank executive was written under the column “referrer” and in the case of the children of VIP customers, the bank account details of the applicant was included in the “remarks” section. If this allegation is true, it is indeed shocking. The moral hazard of the executives and employees at the Financial Supervisory Service is serious, as allegations of job solicitations have emerged following problems with large loans and corruption in employee recruitment.

Words cannot express the shock that the people seeking employment must have felt after corruption in the recruitment process at Kangwon Land and the Financial Supervisory Service was exposed, ahead of Woori Bank. Irregularities in the recruitment process at public and financial institutions shatter the principle of equal opportunity and are crimes that discourage the people seeking employment. The government should thoroughly investigate the latest corruption case and strictly punish those responsible. In addition, the government needs to make every effort to provide a policy that can promote the employment of young people.