S. Korea ratifies key U.N. labor conventions Politics 18:43 February 26, 2021

February 26, 2021

South Korea’s parliament on Friday ratified key International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions on workers’ rights and forced labor, which have long stalled due to objections from businesses and conservative politicians.

The nation joined the United Nations agency in 1991 but had not adopted four of its eight key conventions, lagging behind international standards in protecting labor rights.

The National Assembly passed motions to ratify three of them — No. 29 on forced labor, No. 87 on freedom of association and protection of the right to organize and No. 98 on the right to organize and collective bargaining.

The government submitted the bills last July, while setting aside the Convention No. 105 on abolition of forced labor, deemed to clash with domestic laws on labor in prison.

In 2019, the government sent the same bills to the National Assembly, but they were scrapped amid objections from the conservative opposition party and businesses that worried the passage would further enhance labor unions’ power.

The ratification was one of President Moon Jae-in’s campaign pledges during the 2017 election.

In 2018, the European Union called for ratification, saying that Seoul’s failure to approve them may be a breach of the bilateral free trade agreement between the two sides.

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), a major umbrella labor organization, welcomed the move, saying South Korea should seek to establish labor rules and systems that are in line with international standards.

The KCTU said South Korea also needs to allow more workers to join labor unions, as irregular workers have been “marginalized” under the existing rules.

Another main umbrella labor group here, the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU), also urged parliament to promptly revise any existing labor laws that may contradict the ILO convention.

“The government should also immediately make efforts to ratify Convention No. 105,” it said in a statement.

This file photo shows a main session of the National Assembly in Seoul. (Yonhap)

This file photo shows a main session of the National Assembly in Seoul. (Yonhap)