Stop Rotting Your Hair

Stop rotting your hair

Song Min-ju (Head of Counseling Team, Korea Migrant Human Rights Center)

For Sri Lankan worker Mr. K, the employer requested a renewal of the one-year contract one week before the expiry. The employer said that if he did not sign the renewal contract, he would become an unregistered resident. Mr. K was frightened by the threat of becoming an undocumented resident and the fact that he could not receive severance pay for not completing one year, so he renewed the contract. They work for more than 10 hours in alternating day and night shifts, but they do not receive nighttime pay properly, so they want to change their workplace.

Uzbekistan worker Mr. A came to Korea less than two years ago, but he has already moved the company three times and could no longer move his workplace. While working at a precision casting company, I got an allergy and wanted to move, so I showed the doctor’s note to the person in charge, so I filed a resignation letter telling him to leave. When I went to the job center to apply for a job, I was told that the company could no longer be moved and that I was currently unregistered. The Ministry of Employment and Labor says that the allergy caused by work is the responsibility of the employee. And if you want to change your workplace because of work, you will be judged that you can no longer work in Korea.

Even if you are having a hard time because of coworkers’ violence, you need a medical certificate. If you don’t have a medical certificate, you want statements from other colleagues, but Korean workers are on the side of the employer, and fellow migrant workers have to keep working at the workplace, so I can’t make a statement because I’m noticing the employer. In the case of habitual abusive language or sexual harassment, it is difficult for victims to change workplaces because they cannot find visible evidence. It is difficult to change all workplaces without supporting documents. The idea that business owners, Korean colleagues, and employees of employment support centers should follow the instructions unconditionally if they come to earn money. In addition, the part where the standard of work progress is not uniform due to frequent replacement of the personnel in charge of the employment support center is also returned to the harm of migrant workers.

Shackles of Restriction on Changes

Migrant workers who work under the Employment Permit System in Korea cannot freely move their workplaces according to their will. However, it is stipulated that a workplace may be moved only for reasons specified in Article 25 of the Foreign Worker Employment Act and Article 30 of the Enforcement Decree. The ‘number of workplace changes’ is also limited. You can change your workplace up to three times during the three-year period of stay, and you can change your workplace two additional times during the two-year period after the renewal of the contract. As the law was amended, from December 10, 2009, the number of workplace changes due to reasons attributable to the employer is not included in the limit. Reasons attributable to the employer include long-term closure, confirmation of business closure/bankruptcy, dismissal necessary for management, termination of construction, delayed payment of wages or delay in payment, assault, habitual verbal abuse, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. If a worker is not handed over to the employer upon entering Korea, it is also not included in the number of workplace changes.

However, despite the change in the system, migrant workers who are not well aware of this fact do not check or do not know what reason the employer checked in the ‘Confirmation of Change of Place of Work’ when they change their workplace. There are many workers who express their gratitude to the employer just by changing the workplace. And business owners take this for granted. This kind of behavior is happening because the process of changing the workplace is difficult. Employers have the great power to decide whether to allow change of workplace and try to crush workers. They try to fight for strength by asking, ‘How well did you do while working together, but are you going to move to another company?’ In Korea, employers and migrant workers do not fight. There are too many business owners who want to subdue the weak by emphasizing their strength.

Since the introduction of the Employment Permit System, laws and systems have been continuously changing. However, it is decided by the will of the government to such an extent that it is doubtful whether such changes are based on the reality of migrant workers. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Employment and Labor argues that the Employment Permit System gives a lot of convenience (?) to migrant workers. However, if we truly care for the convenience of migrant workers, I think that we should not have to worry about asserting the basic right of migrant workers, freedom of choice of occupation.

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