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  • » 10/19/2009, 00.00

    SOUTH KOREA

    Seoul: human rights activists protest expulsion of migrant workers

    Theresa Kim Hwa-young

    The government has hardened policy in order to identify and expel workers without the right residency papers. In six months, 17,000 migrants lost their job and were deported.
    Seoul (AsiaNews) – “Free Minu! Stop Crackdown!” shouted members of a coalition of 23 groups, including the Migrant Workers Trade Union in front of the Hwaseong Immigration Detention Centre in Gyeonggi Province last Friday. They were demanding the release of Minod Moktan (AKA Minu), a 33-year-old Nepali musician and cultural activist who, like other migrant workers, is undocumented and has been the target for a government expulsion order.

    Some labour analysts and human rights observers are saying that the government must re-evaluate its positions on issues facing undocumented migrant workers, as they have integrated into Korean society.

    In Minu’s case, he immigrated to South Korea in 1992 and went to work in restaurants and garment factories in the Uijeongbu area.

    During this time, he campaigned actively on social issues, produced a documentary on migrant worker human rights and served as head of the executive committee for the Migrant Worker Film Festival. He has also been the recipient of a number of awards, but now he could be deported.

    Prior to this recent target crackdown, the Korea Immigration Service had arrested and deported undocumented migrant workers , in 2007 and 2008, who had served as leaders of the Migrants Trade Union, a union founded for and by migrants.

    Minu, who is engaged in human rights activism, became a target after a recent election of documented migrant workers to positions of leadership.

    Target crackdowns are the consequence of President Lee Myung-bak’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy.

    Last March he said, “illegal residents should not be allowed to just strut around”, a view widely condemned by human rights and labour organisations around the world.

    Critics also note that the situation of migrant workers in South Korea has induced the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders to speak out on the issue.

    The number of migrant workers deported has gone from around 20,000 a year during the Roh Moo-hyun administration to 32,000 last year under the Lee administration.

    As of late July 2009, some 17,000 have lost their jobs and have been deported.

    In addition, reports of serious human rights violations during the Justice Ministry’s crackdowns are surfacing; they include a steady number of cases of undocumented migrant workers suffering from injuries, dying, and committing suicide whilst in custody.

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    See also

    28/02/2005 SOUTH KOREA - NORTH KOREA
    South Korea sends food aid to the North despite protests by South Korean activists
    South Korean citizens, Washington and Tokyo criticise Seoul's stance vis-à-vis Kim Jong-il's regime

    17/11/2006 SOUTH KOREA – NORTH KOREA – UNITED NATIONS
    Seoul to vote for UN resolution on human rights violations in North Korea
    For the first time ever, South Korea will join the international community to condemn human rights abuses by Pyongyang. The change was likely due to the election of a South Korean, Ban Ki-moon, to the UN's top job.

    18/08/2005 NORTH KOREA – SOUTH KOREA
    Archbishop of Seoul appeals for religious freedom in North Korea
    Speaking before a congregation of 20,000 people, Mgr Cheong Jin-suk, Archbishop of Seoul and Apostolic Administrator for Pyŏngyang, calls for religious freedom in the North, key to the country's social development.

    21/03/2006 SOUTH KOREA – NORTH KOREA
    Separated families meet amid rising tensions

    This is the thirteenth such reunion after the first historic meeting in 2000. Meanwhile, tension between the two Koreas remains high thanks to imminent military exercises with the US, "a foreign and hostile nation".



    20/07/2009 KOREA – UNITED STATES
    Seoul and Washington preparing a “comprehensive strategy” towards North Korea’s nuclear progra
    With the “step-by-step” approach a failure, US and South Korean leaders are planning a broad package to solve all the outstanding issues. A US diplomat thinks the proposal will interest Pyongyang. North Korean sources say that Kim Jong-il’s health is “quite serious.”



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