Thursday, December 27, 2007

Landmark ruling for KTX struggle?

From the Korea times:

Court Stands by Female KTX Crew

By Kang Shin-who
Staff Reporter

A court has ruled that female crewmembers of the KTX, Korean bullet train, are employees of the state-run Korea Railroad (Korail).

The ruling is expected to result in a breakthrough of a long-term dispute between the female workers and the train company. Korail and KTX female attendants have been in conflict over working conditions of woman employees for almost two years.

While the women attendants are claiming they are dispatched workers from the train company, Korail is denying their claims saying they are under its outsourcing company which hired them as contract workers.

The Seoul Central District Court, Thursday, imposed a 1.5 million won fine on a director of KTX attendants on charges of staging an illegal strike but the court made it clear Korail is the actual employer of the protesting female crews.

The court stated that the outsourcing contracts on working conditions between the attendants and Korail Retail is not a substantial but nominal agreement. ``KTX female crews actually work for Korail. There is a silent working agreement between the crewmembers and the company. So Korail is the employer of the female workers according to laws on labor union and labor relations adjustment,’’ it said.

The court also said that Korail Retail was established with 100 percent of its shares owned by Korail and the management group is also from the train company. In addition, it is Korail that made regulations on KTX crews and the two companies cooperate to recruit crewmembers for the bullet train.

The court also pointed out that Korail was negligent in solving the dispute over the working conditions of the protesting crewmembers. Some 70 KTX female attendants lost their jobs as they refused to wear their uniforms to protest their poor working conditions.

Merry Christmas

CINA has pulled out of the vaults an old video of a Christmas 2003 action by the then ETU (MTU's predecessor) during a period of crackdown. When has there not been a period of crackdown? It seems that only its intensity seems to change. Anyways, if you have a sharp eye you can spot many of the migrant labour movements current and former activists about, most of whom have been forcibly deported over the years.

Here's the link.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Hankyoreh editorial on International Migrant's Day

From today's Hankyoreh:

[Editorial] Ensuring the rights of migrant workers

Yesterday was International Migrants’ Day, established to celebrate the adoption of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers on December 18, 1990. Unlike other rights conventions which seek to promote rights based on citizenship and rights of residency, it called for the protection of rights regardless of legal status. The convention calls for the respect and guarantee of rights regardless of gender, race, skin color, language or any other distinction.

Korea is now in an era in which it has 500,000 migrant workers and a million immigrants, and the realities they face are so harsh and miserable that evening mentioning the convention is embarrassing. They face a host of discriminatory practices, including low wages, long hours, and the withholding of wages. Yesterday, on International Migrants’ Day, the authorities arrested “illegal aliens” in Seoul’s Dongdaemun neighborhood and other areas. We do not take issue with enforcing the law. But when the law is going to be enforced, a minimum level of civil rights procedures need to be observed. The indiscriminate way the authorities charge into residences and places of work unannounced to arrest and detain people is the same as a government admission that migrant workers have no rights.

The situation is all the more serious because of the changes the Ministry of Justice seeks to make to immigration law. The new law would allow the authorities to stop and question foreigners just for thinking them suspect. Laws governing the police require police officials to present their identification and state to what police organization they belong, even when stopping a Korean national on the street. Immigration officials should at the very least be required to identify themselves before accosting foreigners. The National Human Rights Commission once formally recommended that even when arresting illegal aliens there need to be clear parameters of authority, conditions and procedures. The Ministry of Justice’s proposed revision will allow officials to enter offices and worksites whenever they suspect there are illegal aliens inside. In other words, the revision was formulated out of consideration for nothing other than efficiency and convenience for those enforcing the law. Nowhere do you see that any thought was given to migrant workers’ rights.

It should not be that way. Migrant workers deserve the same universal rights as all of the members of our society. That belief is the convention’s point of departure. The government needs to stop determining whether their rights are respected based on whether their status is legal or not. Since it was International Migrants’ Day yesterday, the government needs to ask itself why 38 countries have signed the convention, and whether Korea still has an excuse not to ratify it.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

MTU solidarity action in Montreal

No One is Illegal - Montreal visited the Korean consulate in Montreal today. Here is a quick report and pictures on their action.

Dear friends --

Attached and below is the text of the letter delivered earlier today to the South Korean Consulate in Montreal by a small delegation of activists representing No One Is Illegal, Solidarity Across Borders and the Immigrant Workers Center. We have included a few photos. The last photo shows the Consul-General taking our second copy of the letter, after ripping our first copy; he was upset that we had taken photos. We insisted in taking photos to send to our allies in South Korea.

In solidarity and struggle,
The members of No One Is Illegal-Montreal, with the support of Solidarity Across Borders and the Immigrant Workers Center.

December 13, 2007 -- MONTREAL (QUEBEC, CANADA)


TO: The Consul-General of South Korea in Montreal
1 Place Ville-Marie, Suite 2015, Montreal, Quebec, H3B 2C4

FROM: Members of No One Is Illegal, Solidarity Across Borders, & the Immigrant Workers Center (IWC) in Montreal

RE: Crackdown on Migrant Workers in South Korea

Dear Sir/Madam –

We are writing to express our outrage at the recent arrests of members of the Migrant Workers Trade Union (MTU) on November 27, 2007. We demand the immediate release of Kajiman Khapung, Raju Kumar Gurung (Raj) and Abul Basher M. Moniruzzaman (Masum) from the Cheongju detention center. We also demand and end to the targeted crackdown and labor repression against the MTU, and an end to the crackdown and deportation of undocumented migrant workers!

It is our understanding that Kajiman, Raj and Masum might have already been summarily deported. If so, we condemn the removal of these three men, and demand their return to South Korea, if they so choose.

We condemn the current crackdown on migrant workers in South Korea. Migrants come to Korea to do the "3-D" jobs: dirty, dangerous and difficult. They are the super-exploited amongst Korea's working people, and their lack of permanent status denies them basic rights.

Like other social justice organizations in South Korea, we are also writing to support the immediate regularization or "legalization" of all migrant workers in South Korea. As we say in our campaigns: "If they're good enough to work, they're good enough to stay". The more than 200,000 migrant workers in South Korea should be given full rights, as any citizen.

We make these demands as we also struggle for justice for all migrants and non-status persons in the Canadian state. Similar to the South Korean government, the Canadian government exploits "temporary" foreign labour; moreover, upwards of 500,000 people live in Canada without status. We express our solidarity with migrant workers in South Korea with this letter, but also with our day-to-day campaigns for justice and dignity in our own communities.

We ask that the South Korean Consulate express these concerns to the highest levels of the Korean government.

With sincere outrage,

Degane Sougal & Jaggi Singh
No One Is Illegal-Montreal
514-848-7583 - noii-montreal(at)

MTU leaders deported

The article below is from the KCTU's website today. CINA has video and more info here.

Photo : Emergency Committee to Stop the Crackdown on MTU holding the press conference to denounce the forcible deportation of three MTU leaders on December 13th[Photo from Chamnews]

Uregent : Three Leaders of Migrants Trade Union Deported, Morning of Dec. 13!

Early this morning (Dec. 13) President Kajiman, Vice President Raju and General Secretary Masum of the Seoul-Gyeonggi-Incheon Migrants’ Trade Union (a KCTU affiliate) were secreted out of Cheongju Detention Center, where they had been confined since they were arrested in a targeted crackdown on November 27. It has been confirmed that they were transported to Incheon International Airport and deported to their native countries (Nepal and Bangladesh) during the morning hours. This act by the Ministry of Justice is yet a further escalation of its repression against MTU and the organizing of migrant workers in South Korea.

Sequence of Events

On November 27, the three MTU leaders were arrested in a clearly targeted crackdown in an attempt to stop MTU’s union activities. Since then MTU has formed an Emergency Committee and has been carrying out an intense campaign for their release, including a sit-in protest begun on Dec. 5.

MTU and the allies in our Emergency Committee first became aware of the Ministry of Justice’s move to deport the 3 MTU leaders around noon on Dec. 11, when we received a call from the Nepalese Embassy informing us they had sent travel documents to Cheongju Detention Center for President Kajiman and Vice President Raju. Later that night, we also heard that our application for a stay of deportation was turned down by the Ministry of Justice. We therefore moved quickly and dispatched a team of over 20 allies to Cheongju to attempt to block any vehicles that could be carrying the 3 leaders out of the detention center. We were able to block a bus, through the windows of which we could see General Secretary Masum, for several hours early this morning. A brief press conference was held at 7:30am under the belief that we had temporarily succeeded in blocking the deportation.

However, later we heard reports from the Immigration Authorities and Ministry of Justice that at least two, if not all the leaders had been deported. Then, at roughly 8:30am, we received a call from a Nepali person whom had seen President Kajiman and Vice President Raju board a plane at Incheon International Airport and called us on their behalf. At roughly 10:45am, we also received a call from General Secretary Masum, confirming he had been deported as well. It has become clear that all three men were eventually taken out of Cheongju Detention Center in civilian cars through routes of which we were not aware earlier.


The early morning deportation of the MTU leaders confirms even more sharply that the Ministry of Justice is acting to repress the activities of MTU and the independent organizing of migrant workers in South Korea. This is obvious from the Ministry of Justice’s own statement that they had noted not only the union organizing of MTU but also its participation in other progressive struggles. What is more, the Ministry of Justice has broken its promise not to carry out the deportations until the National Human Rights Commission has completed its investigation of the case and made a recommendation. The Ministry of Justice is acting with completely no respect for the labor rights and human rights of migrant workers in South Korea. Its actions represent an attack on not only migrant workers, but on organized labor and all progressive forces in South Korea.

We are also gravely concerned that the President, Vice President and General Secretary will meet more repression when they return to their home countries. Our previous president, President Anwar, was detained and investigated by the Bangladeshi authorities for ‘anti-Korean’ and ‘anti-government’ activities upon returning home earlier this year. We have strong reason to believe that this was in large part due to pressure put on the Bangladeshi authorities by the South Korean government. Given the high likelihood of similar problem now, we are calling on progressive force in Nepal and Bangladesh to do everything they can to block acts of repression by their local authorities.


We are determined not to let the government’s blatant acts of repression intimidate us. Rather, our struggle will only grow stronger, sending a clear message that the organizing of migrant workers to win the rights they deserve will not be crushed. We will continue and expand the sit-in struggle and carry out protests from now to the end of the year demanding the end of repression against MTU and of the crackdown and deportation of undocumented migrants.


Now, more than ever, we need your solidarity. Already, protests actions have been organized in front of South Korean embassies in the Philippines, Nepal, Japan and Hong Kong.

International Migrants’ Day is around the corner on Dec. 18. Many of you have event planned.

-If you do we ask that you add a strong message of protest against the attacks on MTU and on all migrant workers in South Korea.

-If you do not have anything planned, we asked that you organize a demonstration in front of your local South Korean consulate or embassy, shaming the South Korean government for its blatant violations of the labor rights and human rights of migrant workers.

-Please send any pictures of your protests to and

-Please continue to send solidarity statements to and protest letters to the Ministry of Justice, fax: 82-2-503-3532 or 82-2-500-9128.

Wining the labor rights and human rights of migrant workers in South Korea and around the world is our collective task. Let us move forward together strongly!


It appears that MTU general secretary Masum has been deported. The others have probably have been as well, or so I gander from reading this:

So today the High Court officially refused to hear the appeal for Masum, Kajiman and Raju's release. Which means we are pretty much out of legal avenues to fight for their release. I heard from a Nepalese friend today that Raju and Kajiman have both been cleared by the Nepalese embassy for travel and it looks like they will probably be gone by tomorrow.

Unfortunately they will all probably just disappear without being able to make any phone calls, so we won't know that they are gone for sure until they find phones in whatever countries they have lay-overs in.
I'll update more info as I get it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Mahbub Alam on MTU arrests, migrants in Korea, MWTV, etc

This week's No One Is Illegal radio broadcast (from Canada) has a longer interview with Mahbub Alam of MWTV on a bunch of topics: the MTU arrests, migrants issues in Korea, MWTV and more. You can download the whole show or just that segment of the show here from radio4all.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Videos from the year long sit in by migrant workers

CINA has just posted the links to video interviews and video documentary coverage of the one year sit-in by migrant workers that ended in November 2004. Great to see someone saving this information.

the politics of suspicion

South Korea's Chamsesang new English site Newscham has excellent story up on recent revisions to Korea's immigration law that allow immigration officials to question and detain migrants in Korea on the basis of suspicion alone.

In addition, the Asian Human Rights Commission has released more info on the law and an online petition for the release of our friends in the MTU.

Monday, December 03, 2007

new template

I decided to change over to the 'new blogger' (which is actually a few years old already) just because it is easier to control. However, this effects some of our older posts where it would say "view full posting" so that readers could read on. Now some of those longer posts will be included in their entirety but with a small text tag saying (continue reading) somewhere in the body.

If you've noticed the layout changing a bit it is because I am experimenting with different styles, for the moment (after a few changes) I think I'll keep the blue dots layout, for 'brand' identification if you will. Let me know what you think if you have strong opinions otherwise, or if you notice some formating errors anywhere.

Canada Korea Free Trade Agreement

The blog of the Canadian Progressive Economics Forum has posted the testimony of the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives to parliament on the Korea-Canada FTA negotiations. Seems that the FTA is trying to copy the Korea-US FTA by putting a keeping a lot of the ugly stuff in it -- Chapter 11 Nafta-type investor-state dispute mechanisms, WTO TRIPS + agreements, and the like.

Below is a sample, you can read the entire testimony by Scott Sinclair of the CCPA here.
Pursuing monopoly protection beyond that required by WTO rules in the Canada-Korea or Canada-Andean pacts would set a very bad precedent, locking in domestic policies that Canadian governments may want to change in future, and reducing access to essential medicines in FTA partner countries. An analysis by Oxfam estimates that similar provisions in the US-Colombia draft FTA would cost Colombians an extra $940 million a year to buy more expensive medicines.

Amnesty International on MTU arrests

South Korea: Crackdown against Migrants' Trade Union

Amnesty International would like to express serious concern at the arrest of three senior officials of the Migrant Workers' Trade Union (MTU) on the morning of 27 November 2007 (Tuesday). Amnesty International is concerned that they may be arbitrarily returned to their countries of origin.

Following their arrest, MTU President Kajiman Khapung, Vice President Raju Kumar Gurung (Raj) and General Secretary Abul Basher M. Moniruzzaman (Masum) were taken to a detention centre in Cheongju, Northern Chuncheong Province, south of Seoul.

President Kajiman and General Secretary Masum were arrested in front of their houses as they were leaving to participate in a protest in front of the Seoul Immigration Office. Vice President Raj was arrested in front of the factory where he works.

They were detained for being in an irregular or undocumented situation and are at risk of being returned without due process.

Amnesty International believes that the arrests of Kajiman, Raj and Masum are an attempt by the Government to deprive them of their basic labour rights protected in the South Korean constitution, including the right to freedom of association. They also appear to be repressive measures by the Government authorities to stop the MTU from conducting its rightful union activities. They appear to be a continuation of crackdowns that have been conducted against irregular migrant workers in South Korea since August 2007.

Amnesty International considers Kajiman Khapung, Raju Kumar Gurung and Abul Basher M Moniruzzaman to be prisoners of conscience and urges the South Korean Government to release the three men immediately and unconditionally. Amnesty International is concerned that their arrest represents a violation of the right to freedom of association and represents an assault on the human rights of migrant workers. The organisation calls on the South Korean Government not to return the men to their countries of origin without a full and individual assessment of their circumstances, including due process safeguards and the right to appeal the decision to an independent authority.


The Seoul High Court issued a judgement on 1 February 2007 calling for the cancellation of the rejection by the authorities of the Migrant Workers' Trade Union's Notice of Union Founding. This ruling, in effect, recognizes and thereby legalizes the MTU as a union representing the rights of all migrant workers, regardless of their status. The Ministry of Labour has reportedly appealed against this decision to the Supreme Court.

Previously, the South Korea Government had rejected calls for the formation of a migrant workers' trade union arguing that irregular migrant workers did not qualify as workers under existing legislation.

Irregular migrant workers can now be part of a legally recognized trade union. There are some 230,000 irregular migrant workers in South Korea. However, they remain at constant risk of arrest, detention and return.

The arrests of the three senior MTU officials come at a time when the MTU were reportedly planning campaigns against revisions to the Immigration Law proposed by the Ministry of Justice. These revisions could remove the requirement on authorities, in the process of conducting checks on migrant workers, to present identification documentation, to obtain other relevant documentation such as warrants prior to entering buildings, and the necessity of obtaining detention orders before arresting migrant workers. In the crackdowns against irregular migrant workers since August 2007, about 20 MTU members and officials have been arrested.

MWTV visits jailed MTU leadership

Five members of Migrant Workers TV travelled down to Cheongju on Thursday, Nov. 29 to pay a visit to the 3 MTU members who were ambushed and arrested Tuesday morning. We spoke about their ordeal with them for about 30 minutes, giving them our support and passing on well wishes from their many friends on the outside. Masum described how the Immigration Department had prepared for this operation to the point of even knowing what type of medication he was currently taking. This was clearly a carefully planned crackdown on the MTU leadership. Masum, Kajiman and Raju are trying to keep their spirits up and urged us to do whatever we could to publicize this violation of their rights as human beings and migrant laborers. Having secretly brought in cameras and recording devices into the interview room, we were able to record a short video of our conversation, while the guards paced back and forth outside the windowed room, constantly peering in on us during the course of our visit. The video will be aired on our next news broadcast.

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