Rights, Until Equal

rights, until equal

Song Min-ju (Counseling Team Leader)

Mr. R, a Sri Lankan, agreed with the employer to receive 1.9 million won out of a total of 2.6 million won three months after filing a complaint with the Ministry of Labor for arrears in wages.

Mr. N, a Vietnamese, filed a complaint with the Ministry of Labor on the grounds of non-payment of the difference in severance pay excluding overnight allowance for one year and nine months and departure guarantee (severance pay insurance). The employer acknowledged the difference in severance pay, but said that he could not accept night pay, and said that if he asked for any more, he would end up paying a fine. In the end, Mr. N agreed to receive the difference in severance pay of 1 million won the next day.

Bangladeshi Mr. R asked the employer for severance pay after working for two years, but the employer said that he could never give ‘undocumented migrant workers no severance pay’. Even at the meeting after filing a complaint with the Ministry of Labor, the employer was excited, saying, “I don’t know why I have to pay severance pay.” In the end, the employer promised to pay severance pay, but he pushed for an agreement, saying that he would pay only 1.8 million won out of 4 million won. At the crossroads between settlement and civil litigation, Mr. R chose settlement.

Consensus means ‘to agree with each other, to agree with two or more parties’. However, employers call unilateral coercion an agreement and set a trap for workers who assert their rights. But even though they know it’s a trap, they are the weakest person who can’t help but grab hold of the injured migrant worker.

When wages are overdue at the workplace, workers first demand payment of wages from the employer. If the employer refuses to do so, a complaint is filed with the Ministry of Labor. If payment is not paid after filing a complaint, the employer will be transferred to the prosecution. Separately, in order to receive wages, workers receive a confirmation of arrears from the Ministry of Labor and file a civil lawsuit (small claims court) with the help of the Legal Aid Corporation.

Due to these procedures that workers must go through to receive wages, they are hesitant to proceed with legal proceedings due to the prolonged processing period and uncertainty about whether or not they will receive payment.

As stated in Article 23(2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone is entitled to equal remuneration for equal work without any discrimination. However, in South Korea, not everyone includes migrant workers. Korea is a country where migrant workers do not have human rights.

Article 6 of the Labor Standards Act states that employers cannot discriminate against workers on the basis of gender, nor can they discriminate in terms of working conditions based on nationality, religion, or social status. Discriminated workers are workers who cannot receive fair compensation for their work. No, they are not workers, they are just foreigners.

While working, I often hear business owners say ‘let’s do it by law’. Hearing those words, I feel like I am being pretentious because I know the legal system that works to the advantage of business owners. It is truly absurd to see the dignifiedness of the business owners claiming that they are victims.

An employment permit system in which only employers can claim their rights. The Employment Permit System, in which you become a ‘bad guy’ if you insist on workers’ rights. There is only bitter laughter in the current system, which is idle around the word guarantee of rights.

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