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Tomorrow afternoon (5 p.m.) there will be trial in the case of the Vietnamese migrant workers who went on strike at Incheon New Port construction site. The trial will be held in Incheon’s Regional Court (Jung-gu Unseo-dong).


Kyonghyang Shinmun (6.03) wrote the following article about the case:


Vietnamese Migrant Laborers Who Went on Strike Demanding to Be Allowed to Eat Properly


Two days ago, the barbarism of Korean society was revealed in front of Incheon District Court.


At a press conference, about 20 members of Incheon-area labor and civic groups reported the absurd reality in which prosecutors demanded the most severe sentence of three years in jail for 10 Vietnamese migrant laborers because they led a strike; the Vietnamese were unable to eat properly despite working 12 hours a day.

 


Vietnamese workers enter an auditorium of the Seongdong-gu Office, Seoul, in a queue, to perform their traditional dance to celebrate 'The Foreign Laborers' Day' on May 18, 2008. That the Vietnamese laborers in Incheon, who went on a strike to just get proper food, but were iron-fisted by the Korean prosecutors show how barbaric Korean society still is towards foreign migratory laborers.
 

The laborers were tried on charges of holding an illegal strike and obstruction of business, with the construction company and prosecutors joining forces regarding two six-day survival strikes, in July of last year and January of this year, held by 180 Vietnamese laborers at the construction site of a container substructure at Incheon New Port.

 
Korean society's response to the very human demands of migrant laborers was thoroughly inhuman. The story of these Vietnamese migrant laborers unprecedentedly going on strike is terrible. In a word, the issue was food.


According to the Korea Migrant Human Rights Center, the roughly 180 Vietnamese laborers worked at the construction site on the basis of a 12 hour-day-and-night shifts of 90 men each, and received three free meals.


The company, however, notified them that they would take from their salary 8,000 won a day, 240,000 won a month, as the price of two of the meals, arguing that the laborers didn't work from 40 minutes before their meal time.


To these laborers, who make slightly more than 1.5 million a month working 12 hours a day without Sundays off at an hourly wage of 4,110 won, 240,000 won in deductions for food was a major burden.


Moreover, compared to the high cost of the meals, the food quality was terrible. When the workers went on strike about this last July, the company fired 21 workers and in retaliation paid the remaining workers salaries with one hour deducted from their 12 hour work days. In January, they therefore launched a second strike.


Whereas the company, which used food to harass the laborers, came under no sanction at all, the iron fist was brought down on the Vietnamese laborers in the name of the law, who had appealed that they be allowed to eat properly and rest at least on Sundays.


The "food strike" of the Vietnamese laborers was truly shocking. Discrimination against migrant laborers is nothing new, but this instance was just too much. That we live "under the same sky" (i.e., in the same space) with migrant laborers, who must eat what they are given and cannot cry out in pain when they are trod upon, is terrible.


The root of the problem can be found in the fact that while the Constitution guarantees the so-called Three Labor Rights and bans discrimination on the basis of sex, nationality and skin color, there is a policy that refuses to recognize these for migrant laborers.


This hypocritical migrant labor policy that brings in laborers but fails to recognize their labor rights is turning Korea into a nation without even a minimum of civility towards human beings.


Through their food strike, the Vietnamese migrant laborers are exposing the barbarism that still lurks in Korean society.


http://english.khan.co.kr/khan_art_view.html?code=790101&artid=201106031353037&medid=enkh



 



 

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