Magazine article New Internationalist

Migrants Demand Equality in South Korea

Magazine article New Internationalist

Migrants Demand Equality in South Korea

Article excerpt

The South Korean Government is cracking down on undocumented migrant workers with new labour laws introduced in June 2003 to restrict employment rights. These have been met with civil unrest and almos daily protests.

Thousands of migrants have gone into hiding as a result of a November 2003 ultimatum to deport 120,000 illegal workers before a June 2004 deadline. However, policing problems mean it is looking increasingly unlikely to be enforced.

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Many migrants, principally from Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines and Nepal, find themselves in impossible positions. Thousands are trapped in South Korea through debts to unscrupulous labour agencies. Some continue to work illegally, only surfacing for long night-shifts in the furniture, plastics, textiles or motor industries.

Enter the Equality Trade Union Migrant Branch (ETUMB) representing members from 91 countries and one of the first of its kind in the country. Seventy migrant workers have staged a sit-in against the new employment laws and deportation order at Myeong Dong cathedral in central Seoul, a traditional place of political refuge into which the authorities can enter only at the church's discretion. …

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