Corea, República de - Repression of migrants union and crackdown on illegal migrants (2011)

Migrant workers are subject to serious abuses of labour rights. While the laws offer them similar protection to local workers in terms of wages and basic conditions, in reality most are paid far less than their Korean counterparts, forced to work long hours and often have their wages withheld. They are tied to their employer and face restrictions in changing jobs, making them particularly vulnerable.

As of October 2009, there were about 680,000 migrant workers in South Korea, mainly working in factories producing textiles and electronics, but also involved in prostitution. In September 2008, the government announced it would halve the estimated 220,000 illegal migrant workers by 2012 and has increased the sometimes violent deportation raids in workplaces and homes.

The Migrants’ Trade Union (MTU) was founded in April 2005 and is a member of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU). However, the government has consistently refused to recognise it as a legal union and has not let it engage in trade union representation or collective bargaining, despite the fact that Korean law allows all workers to organise and that in 2006 the Seoul Higher Court recognised MTU as a legal union. The government has appealed this decision and has arrested and deported MTU leadership several times since 2005.

In November, a day after the close of the G20 summit, Michel Catuira, president of the Seoul-Gyeonggi-Incheon Migrants’ Trade Union, was summoned to appear before the Immigration Office for unlawful political activities.

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