Friday, November 30, 2007

Reckless Inequality

Also reprinted at interlocals (with pictures) and Znet (without block quotes).

Reckless inequality: Dramatic arrests of Migrant Trade Union leadership highlight South Korea’s failed labour and migration policies

Entire MTU leadership arrested

On Tuesday, November 27th, the entire executive of South Korea’s Migrant Trade Union was arrested by immigration officials in three co-coordinated morning actions targeting these migrants at their places of work and residence.

The MTU is a courageous union of undocumented migrant workers, supported by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) that has been active for three years in advocating for migrant workers rights. In recent months they had held a mass memorial service for migrants that had died in Korea, whether on the job or off. They also won a precedent-setting case at the Seoul High court which had ruled that the government must accept the legal registration of the Migrant Trade Union, something which the government failed to do, preferring instead, it seems, to arrest the union’s leadership rather than recognize it legally.

At roughly 9:20am on November 27, MTU President Kajiman was leaving home to attend a planned protest in front of the Seoul Immigration Office when more than 10 immigration officers who had been hiding confronted him in front of his house.

General Secretary Masum also left his house the morning of the 27th in order to attend the protest in front of the Seoul Immigration Office. As he walked down the street, four 4 large men passed by who were laughing amongst themselves. He originally did not pay attention to them; however, immediately after, roughly 10-20 immigration officers and other people came up from behind and surrounded him.

At roughly the same time 4 immigration officers in front of the factory where he worked confronted Vice President Raju. When he demanded to see the officers’ identification cards, they presented him with a detention order and arrested him. Within hours, all three men were sent to a detention center in Cheongju, Northern Choongjeong Province, south of the capital Seoul.

In response to the arrests the KCTU has issued a petition for the release of the MTU leadership and have charged that the simultaneous arrest of three MTU leaders is a clearly a targeted attack, part of an intensification of the immigration crackdown against undocumented migrants in South Korea since the beginning of August of this year.

During this time more than 20 MTU members and officers of the MTU have been arrested. As with previous crackdowns, the authorities have admitted that the numbers of undocumented workers have not significantly decreased. The number of foreign residents in Korea has recently approached 1 million with some 230,000 said to be undocumented.

Failed migration policy reform

These numbers have swelled in recent years with the expansion of the Employment Permit System (EPS), an increase in the number of transnational marriages, and new laws governing the migration of ethnic Korean Chinese.

The EPS, designed to replace the discredited Industrial Trainee System, remains flawed in protecting migrant’s rights and encourages illegality as it has not been configured to factor in the actual costs of migration to individual workers (in the sense of hidden and illegal recruitment and brokerage costs that persist for migrants from particular regions; short, 1-3 year time horizons for employment that leaves both workers and employers with incentives to overstay the contract; and problems associated with the initial implementation of the EPS which ignored the majority of undocumented migrants in Korea by excluding them from access to permits).

Thus, a large portion of the increase in the number of undocumented year by year consists of overstayers rather than new migrants. Rather than correcting the system, the government, largely at the behest of the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Government and Home Affairs, has chosen to pursue crackdowns on the undocumented while recruiting newer workers from overseas.

As has been documented by South Korea’s own National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) [1], immigration officials routinely ignore legal procedures for dealing with migrant workers such as arranging prior warrants and disclosing their identification, and the immigration detention centers are often ill-equipped to deal with the large number of migrants they arrest in terms of safety, space, and medical care.

This message was brought home this past February when a fire at the Yeosu detention center left nine migrants dead and more injured. The fire exposed the shoddy safety conditions of migrant detention centers and the way in which the migrants who survived were treated (deported with slight compensation and before their injuries had fully healed) shocked many in Korean civil society and the public in general, spurring a further investigation by the NHRC.

The be fair, the government has attempted to make progress in terms of programs for transnational brides and children of migrant workers and Koreans as part of its anti-discrimination policies. Civil society groups have even participated in this reform and in designing service delivery. However, a number of grassroots organizations have been critical of the ways in which these services have been designed (such as education around traditional manners for foreign brides rather than education in their legal rights and resources in cases of abuse) and delivered (the creation of separate programs for ‘Kosians’ -- children of Korean and other Asians -- rather than anti-discrimination education in schools and workplaces, etc).

Fundamentally, however, anti-discrimination policy will remain stalled unless it can deal with the issues of migration policy design and the procedural violation of migrant’s rights inherent in this unjust crackdown and in the Employment Permit System itself.

As the national daily Hankyoreh reported earlier this week, progressive reform to immigration legislation does not seem likely in the near future; in fact, the opposite seems the case:

An even greater problem is that earlier this month the government revised the Immigration Law to allow agents to question foreigners based on suspicion alone, without regard to time and place, further angering migrant workers. It is not that one cannot understand wanting to provide in the law some tools to work with while enforcing it, but it is a problem when the law just gives agents wide-ranging authority and includes no stipulations on procedures.

A law governing the national police requires that a police officer present identification and identify himself when stopping someone for questioning. Similarly, at the very least, immigration officials need to be required to prove who they are. It was in 2005 that the National Human Rights Commission officially recommended that immigration be given clear conditions, parameters on authority, and procedures for arresting illegal aliens.

This failure of immigration law reform has led, as the MTU and other migrant groups have complained, to a near permanent state of immigration crackdown targeting migrants in their places of work, residence, and in public space.

One of the reasons why the MTU has been targeted, perhaps, is that they have been the most vocal in creating an organization led by the people most effected by the crackdown -- the undocumented themselves – and, along with Migrant Worker’s Television and a handful of other grassroots groups, have been the most vocal in representing their plight. Their struggles has been recognized in statements by leading Korean unions and NGOs, as well in their interaction with international organizations including Amnesty International, the UN Special Rapporteur on Migrants, and the International Labour Organization, among others, which have brought attention to the Korean government’s migration policies.

However, as has been reported in Znet and elsewhere over the last few years, the MTU and its predecessor, the ETU, have lost the majority of their leadership over the years to targeted crackdowns and government repression.

Reckless inequality

If one steps back for a minute, it is easy to see that a lot of the suffering caused immigration law is part of a larger symptom of Korean labour market policies that attempt to create flexible labour markets with little concern for those affected.

Since the 1997 crisis, and indeed before, labour law has been used to flexibilize the employment relationship and has contributed to rocketing social inequality that harmful for both politics and the economy, undermining democratic process and making the Korean economy more dependent on exports and financialization to maintain domestic demand.

The ‘participatory government’ of former labour lawyer Roh Moo Hyun has used an incomplete tripartite committee (passing agreements without consent of the largest trade union federation), unpredicted use of damage claims against workers for illegal strikes, and repression of union protests in order to get these reforms past.

For what it is worth, the KCTU has attempted to assist workers affected by these policies but has encountered its own difficulties both internally and externally. These contradictions were exposed this summer after the new labour law on irregular work was passed and strikes and sit-ins of a largely female-led force of irregular workers proliferated. In the weeks after the events, the ability of the KCTU to mobilize solidarity did not live up to what was promised and the strikes fizzled and were marginalized.

Some attribute the lack of solidarity for grassroots struggles from the KCTU to be a matter of a dominant and nationalist oriented leadership faction that dominates both the KCTU and the Democratic Labour Party, but the reasons are complex and also involve the rise of more bread and butter concerns in some of the dominant sectoral unions of the KCTU whom are affected by neoliberal restructuring, and whose concerns about job security make it difficult to organize across both place and industry.

These criticisms aside, the KCTU does remain more mobilized than national confederations in most developed countries even if it remains internally and externally fragmented, and it is important to keep this in mind. Worker’ s protests on November 11 of this year saw pitched battles between police and workers in the downtown streets of Seoul, and extreme government efforts to silence dissent such as roadblocks, water cannon, and brute force. These protests came during the yearly national day of action commemorating the death of labour activist Chun Tae Il, whose suicide during the repressive dictatorship days helped spur the largely female-led democratic trade union movement of the 1970s.

On a tragic note, the week before the protests had seen two more worker-suicides in protest of the situation of irregular workers and the new labour law. Lee So-Seon, mother of Chun Tae-il and a heroic activist of her accord, took the opportunity to criticize both the tactic itself – “Don't die any more, instead, live and fight” – and point to the lack of unity between labour and progressive groups, and lack of a progressive media, as contributing factors to the sense of despair among workers.

On a brighter note, the KCTU has been able to start to break out of enterprise level confinement and begin the slow process of establishing industrial level unions. Earlier this fall, the Korean metal workers federation announced a collective agreement that included wage negotiations not only for regular unionists but also agreements on wages and working conditions for irregular and migrant workers working in metal industries. Collective agreements have also been signed in medical and financial industries, so progress in political rights at an aggregate level among regular workers is improving but more grassroots activists within the labour movement worry about how the situation of more marginal workers without industrial or enterprise representation can remain a priority if the trade union movement becomes more concerned with sectoral issues than grassroots struggles.

Obviously there are no easy answers to these questions, gains in industrial level agreements notwithstanding, the growing majority of workers are irregular workers (recent estimates put this figure at 53% of the labour force) and in a climate of trade liberalization and labour market reform the situation for workers outside of heavy industries and strategic sectors looks difficult. Added to this is the problem of real-estate bubbles caused by financial liberalization and urban redevelopment that dramatically affect the urban poor, as has been evidenced by the struggles of venders and urban residents affected by redevelopment schemes.

It may be a bit of a cliché to say that Korean progressive movements find themselves in a crisis because of these developments. Indeed, if one looks back upon the last 30 or 40 years of the Korean labour movement, it is hard to find when a period without crisis has been the norm, but the question of how to improve the situation is not invalidated by this insight. Certainly, a large degree of the current problems can be related back to the inequality that exists between workers, citizens and the more powerful segments of Korean society.

More so, efforts by grassroots social movements to change the direction of government policy and corporate power has been further limited by the degree of participation afforded to them even by the ‘participatory government’ of Roh Moo Hyun, and the speed and scope of neoliberal reform embraced by that regime. Even those progressives from the 80s democracy movement who went into the current government have found many of their progressive reform efforts stymied both internally and by the opposition and entrenched economic bureaucracies. Thus, even the president’s more moderate former advisors have lashed out at this ‘turn to the right’. Lee Jeong Woo, former chairman of the Presidential commission of policy planning, criticized the government’s rush to sign the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement in an editorial earlier this past summer in the Hankyoreh:

The ‘‘Participatory Government’’ of Roh Moo-hyun has, over the last four years, worked in its own way to overcome a culture where ‘‘growth is everything’’ and ‘‘the market rules above all,’’ and I praise it for its efforts. The results have been a greater emphasis on harmony between growth, the re-distribution of wealth and the role of the public sector. Now, however, it is saying that it is suddenly going to trash that philosophy and go back to the familiar priorities of growth and the market. Put simply, it has turned to the right, and there ahead lies the cliff. Right now what is right for Korea is a greater turn towards the left. It is the Scandinavian social democratic model that has been judged the best of all the market economy experiments the human race has experienced so far. In public opinion surveys as well, it is the Scandinavian model that Koreans say they like the most. Though of course it would be difficult to move to that model right away, we should be gazing toward Scandinavia to get there. A free trade agreement with the U.S. means we are going to go in the wrong direction.

A “politics of solidarity”?

The broad liberal-left, however, seems at the current moment more fixated on a potential conservative conquest of political power than it is introspective on how some of this very inequality has permeated its own ranks: either in terms of the pursuit of neoliberal policy by economic reformers without the effective participation of those affected by it (which has served to eliminate much of the difference between liberals and conservatives on directions in economic policy, at least regarding labour if not trade and investment), or through neglect by more powerful and dominant actors in the political parties and union federations of grassroots struggles, often in favor of a political pre-occupation with the ‘national interest’ (in terms of ending the cold war division system) that has seen the bargaining away of much of the progressive content of the left-liberal platform and calls for progressives to unite around candidates whom seem set to pursue further neoliberal reform but have a pro-engagement stance toward the North.

Only a few on the progressive left have publicly stated that in a vibrant economic and political democracy (that could create a more viable dimension to any post-division political configuration) there needs to be more to progressive politics than furthering of neoliberal reform and the politics of growth. To this end, many hope, that whatever the results of the upcoming presidential election, a ‘politics of solidarity’ prevails on the left which puts the problem of marginalized political groups on the agenda, and includes genuine participation as a tool for achieving this – something which is going to require a genuine transformation of tendencies on the current liberal-left.

No doubt there is room for greater coordination at multiple levels between progressive forces interested in these sorts of political and economic issues, be they migrant and irregular workers’ rights or trade and financial liberalization. One place to start may be with the case with the leadership of the Migrant Trade Union currently being held in detention. Seeing as their case represents an important component of any politics of solidarity that involves the configuration of politics within and beyond national borders, it seems an appropriate place to start, perhaps both for Korean social movements and their international allies.

1. Seol, Dong-hoon et al. Survey on Undocumented Migrants in Detention Facilities of Korea. November 18,2005. National Human Rights Commission of Korea.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

English Chamsesang

I just noticed that Chamsesang has introduced an English website and has been building up stories in the past month. Great to see a growing diversity of english sources dealing with Korean social movement news!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

International solidarity with the MTU

KCTU/MTU call for action

[Photo : Emergency demonstration was held at the Seoul Regional Immigration Office on November 27th. A member of MTU was holding a picket, demanding "Free the MTU President, Bro. Kajiman and Vice-President Raju".]

Urgent Call for International Solidarity

Migrants’ Trade Union Leadership Arrested on November 27th.
Stop the Repression against KCTU affiliate Migrants’ Trade Union!
Free President Kajiman and other Imprisoned Union Officers!
Stop the Crackdown and Deportations!

1. Background

On the morning of November 27, MTU President Kajiman, Vice President Raju and General Secretary Masum were arrested, in what was clearly a targeted crackdown against the leadership of MTU. We, the KCTU and the Seoul-Gyeonggi-Incheon Migrants’ Trade Union call on the international labor and human rights community to do whatever in their power to secure the release of the MTU leadership and end this labor repression against MTU.
At roughly 9:20am on November 27, President Kajiman was leaving his home in order to attend a plan protest in front of Seoul Immigration Office when he was confronted by more than 10 immigration officers who had been hiding in front of his house. The immigration officers restrained the Korean activist with President Kajiman and then encircled the president. After protesting strongly, President Kajiman was eventually arrested, his shoulder hurt in the process.
General Secretary Masum also left his house the morning of the 27 in order to attend the protest in front of Seoul Immigration. As he walked down the street he was passed by four 4 large men who were laughing amongst themselves. He originally did not pay attention to them; however, immediately after roughly 10 immigration officers came up from behind him. He was suddenly surrounded by nearly 20 people and despite protesting was eventually arrested.
At roughly the same time Vice President Raju was confronted by 4 immigration officers in front of the factory where he worked. Upon seeing the vice president, the immigration officers immediately attempted to handcuff him, but failed due to his forceful protest. When Vice President Raju demanded to see the officers’ identification cards, they presented them along with a prepared detention order. Despite his protests the vice president was also eventually arrested.
Soon after all three men were sent to a detention center in Cheongju, Northern Choongjeong Provience, south of the capital Seoul.

2. Clear Labor Repression

The simultaneous arrest of three MTU leaders, is a clearly a targeted attack, planed in timing with an intensification of the crackdown against undocumented migrants in South Korea. Since the beginning of August of this year, the government has carried out a mass-scale crackdown in an attempt to reduce the number of undocumented migrants in the country. During this time more than 20 MTU members and officers have been arrested.
By their own admission, despite this crackdown, the numbers have not significantly decreased. Thus, Immigration Control has stepped up the crackdown in the last several weeks. At the same time a proposal is being put forth to revise South Korea’s immigration law to make it completely legal to carry out the crackdown continuously without any procedures, such as requiring warrants or detention orders, to protect the human rights of the people it targets. The government has clearly stepped up its repression against MTU leadership at this moment in order to get rid of the force that has been at the forefront of the struggle against the crackdown.

3. Call for Solidarity

We, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions and affiliate the Seoul-Gyeonggi-Incheon Migrants’ Trade Union, make an urgent appeal to you to do whatever you can to support our struggle to free the arrested union leaders and end the barbaric crackdown underway in South Korea.

In particular we are calling for protest letters to the Ministry of Justice, Minister Jung Seong-Jin +82-2-503-3532 or +82-2-500-9128.

Please be sure to send a copy to KCTU by +82-2-2635-1134(fax) or e-mail at

We wish you also to know that KCTU and MTU are by no means deterred by this attack. MTU has already selected a temporary leadership and we have already planned protests for the next days. We are currently making further preparations and will mobilize every means possible to win the release of MTU’s leaders.

If you have any questions or need more information, please contact:

Lee Changgeun
International Executive Director
Korean Confederation of Trade Unions
Tel.: +82-2-2670-9234 Fax: +82-2-2635-1134
E-mail: Web-site :
2nd Fl. Daeyoung Bld., 139 Youngdeungpo-2-ga, Youngdeungpo-ku, Seoul 150-032 Korea

Liem Wol-san
International Coordinator
Seoul-Gyeonggi-Incheon Migrants' Trade Union(MTU)-affiliated to KCTU
Tel : +82-2--2285-6068
Email: Website:


Mr. Jung Seong-Jin
Minister of Justice
Seoul, South Korea

Dear Minister Jung,

On the morning of November 27 between 9:00 and 9:30, the president, vice president and general secretary of the KCTU affiliate, Seoul-Gyeonggi-Incheon Migrants’ Trade Union, were arrested, each in front of his separate home or workplace. This event has already received international attention. It is clear from the form in which the arrests took place that this was a targeted crackdown meant to silence MTU and the opposition struggle it has lead against the anti-human rights crackdown being carried out against undocumented migrants in South Korea. That this was a meditated act of repression is also apparent from the fact that the arrests came at the same time as the South Korean Immigration Control Office is stepping up its crackdown and a proposal is being put forth the revise immigration law to make it possible to carry out the crackdown continuously with complete disregard for the most basic procedures to protect human rights.

The arrests of the MTU leadership is a gross violation of human rights and a horrendous act of labor repression which targets not only migrant workers and MTU but also the KCTU, the 15 million workers it represents and the international labor community. As such, we will not remain silent.

We therefore forcefully call on you to meet the following demands:
-Immediately release President Kajiman, Vice President Raju and General Secretary Masum!
-Stop the targeted crackdown and labor repression against MTU!
-Stop the crackdown and deportation of undocumented migrant workers!


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Hankyoreh editorial on the crackdown

[Editorial] Stop the crackdown on migrant workers

Another reckless crackdown on migrant workers is underway. Yesterday three key officers in the Migrants’ Trade Union (Iju Nodongja Nodong Johap) were taken away by immigration agents. The three were clearly targeted. Just the other day two ethnic Koreans from China jumped off the roof of a Chinese speaking church in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province, while trying to ditch agents there to arrest them, who then broke their legs and ankles. For how much longer is the government going to continue this inhumane crackdown?

The reason the government is going after foreign laborers with such zeal is said to be because of the rapid increase in the number of undocumented migrant workers. This kind of ruthless crackdown, however, is as bad a policy as one could have. There are said to be some 230,000 undocumented migrant laborers in Korea; is the government going to continue this way until it has grabbed them all?

An even greater problem is that earlier this month the government revised the Immigration Law to allow agents to question foreigners based on suspicion alone, without regard to time and place, further angering migrant workers. It is not that one cannot understand wanting to provide in the law some tools to work with while enforcing it, but it is a problem when the law just gives agents wide-ranging authority and includes no stipulations on procedures.

A law governing the national police requires that a police officer present identification and identify himself when stopping someone for questioning. Similarly, at the very least, immigration officials need to be required to prove who they are. It was in 2005 that the National Human Rights Commission officially recommended that immigration be given clear conditions, parameters on authority, and procedures for arresting illegal aliens.

Has the government already forgotten the appeal and recommendation issued by their Korean brethren in Germany? Eleven Koreans who went as migrant workers to Germany 30 to 40 years ago issued a statement earlier this month in which they said “all migrants should be recognized as members of society and granted rights that correspond to residents.” The government needs to take this suggestion into consideration and reexamine its proposed revision to the Immigration Law, then come up with a reasonable policy alternative that, instead of being all about cracking down, is enough to make our society feel some sense of pride about our immigration policies.

Breaking news: MTU leaders arrested

I got a few worried emails last night and thought I would start publishing things now.

Basically, in the midst of increasing crackdowns on migrant workers, MTU (Migrant Worker's Trade Union) President (Kajiman), Vice president (Raju) and General Secretary (Masum) were all arrested at 9:30am Korean time this morning (November 27) in front of their homes/workplaces. They were arrested without any formal charges and are being held at a detention center in Jeon-ju. Since then, MTU activists and other groups are currently meeting with the KCTU to discuss the situation and decide upon further action. MWTV and CINA have been reporting upon the events in English.

I heard from Masum's partner that he was arrested in front of their house. 15 people/officials met him on the street and he said they had all of the documents and knew his name. No one was hurt.

The Korean Democratic Labour Party, Solidarity for Social Progress, a national Irregular Workers Solidarity group, and others have released statements of solidarity (in Korean) in the short hours since this started.

More information to follow.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Worker's Protest, Chun Tae Il

Korea celebrates two 'May Days': the actual international day of worker's protest and an indigenous holiday commemorating Chun Tae Il, who immolated himself in the early seventies in protest of the regressive labour relations that animated the sweatshops of the textile boom of those days.

Last weekend's Chun Tae Il event got international press coverage but little contextualization. Most papers reported it as an Anti- Korea-US Free Trade Agreement event. However, the issues are more complicated than that. The FTA, the war in Iraq, this summer's assault on a largely female led irregular worker movement, vicious and violent urban displacement for redevelopment schemes, and the continuing power imbalances between of all types of workers, the government, and employers informed the scale and intensity of the protests this time.

Korea's labour movements and grassroots civil society groups have been a great hope for many in more recent years, as Korean workers have been able to achieve gains at the industrial level and in heavy industries. However, in most spaces their activism is still met with violence by a system that just won't reform itself in a way that would consider labour movements as an active political partner to bargain with and co-determine government policy. Hence, protests are often met with censure and violence, especially in times when the government gets set on passing controversial policy without public consultation and input in the process, especially in areas such as labour and trade policy where one sees the use of violence increasing in the last few years.

The Hankyoreh, in their coverage of the event, reported that the police presence at the rally was 88,000 police versus 24,000 protesters. Indeed, from video of the protests, one can see that the events got rather medieval, with police bus-top combat, armed charges, and routed 'soldiers' (if you will) and civilians, lying injured after the charge.

I don't have room for a systematic analysis of the social context in which this violence takes places, or the full tensions involved Korean labour relations at the moment, suffice to say that such levels of police violence, spurred on by government policy, are unnecessary. There is plenty of room for reform in Korean state-society relationships, and much of this conflict comes from not only efforts by elements in the Korean state and dominant economic classes to scuttle attempts at social reform, but also from the lack of determination of politicians in the last two governments to stand by the commitments to cooperative reform that they themselves made, and which were largely based on their own experience of political violence during the democracy movement.

Certainly Korean politics and labour relations do not need to erupt violently in this way, as they periodically do, but what would be needed to prevent such social conflict would involve commitments to social reform that successive governments seem unwilling to diligently pursue and thus further apathy over the political process, social conflict and the political crisis of the liberal and progressive blocs will continue into the future unless substantive changes are made, not only by political parties but at multiple levels of governance. Until then, the medieval tinge to protest and police reaction seems set to continue.

More links and pictures on the protest are available here, and more background info on Korean labour relations at this blog in general.

Friday, November 02, 2007

mourning senseless deaths

Yonhap news has just reported on the increasing number of injuries to migrant workers in Korea:
The number of foreign laborers injured at their workplaces has grown rapidly here during the past years due to a lack of proper safety education and preventative measures, despite a growing number of foreigners coming to South Korea to seek mostly low-paid manual jobs.

More than 8,600 foreign workers were injured at their workplaces here during the past three years, according to a report submitted Friday by Rep. Shin Ki-nam of the pro-government United New Democratic Party to a parliamentary inspection session.

The number of foreigners, including illegal aliens, surpassed one million as of the end of September, according to government statistics, as a large number of Chinese and primarily southeast Asian nationals flock to South Korea to fill shortages in mostly labor-intensive industries.
At the same time, the MTU and other migrant organizations have held a ceremony to commemorate those lost during industrial accidents, immigration crackdowns, and otherwise. The Hankyoreh included a short blurb about it:

Buddhist groups and migrant workers attend “Cheondojae,” a Buddhist memorial service in which mourners pay homage to the dead, at Hwagyesa Temple, which is located in the northern part of Seoul, on October 28.

Cheondojae is carried out as a way to bring peace and eternal rest to those who have died. Yesterday’s ceremony was held in honor of foreign workers who have died as a result of accidents that occurred in the difficult, dirty and dangerous industries in which most of the migrant workers in South Korea are employed. The ceremony was attended by Buddhist priests and migrant workers from Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and other Southeast Asian countries.

The organizers of the service estimate that approximately 3,000 migrant workers have died in South Korea. At the ceremony, a memorial tablet inscribed with the names of 1,037 people who were able to be identified was placed on the altar.

Photo by Kim Jin-su/The Hankyoreh.