Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Migrant Workers and Speaking Freely

Migrant Workers in Korea are the focus of a campaign by Amnesty International.
In August 2003 the Korean National Assembly passed the Act Concerning the Employment Permit for Migrant Workers (EPS Act). The Act prohibits discrimination against foreign workers and was intended to give migrant workers legal status and to put an end to human rights violations against them. By passing the Act, South Korea became the first labour importing country in Asia to attempt to protect the rights of migrant workers through legislation.
Sadly, having a law and enforcing it are two quite distinct things and the (lengthy) report outlines the many failings of the South Korean government to ensure that human rights standards are met for immigrant workers.

If that report is too much to read, the Wire, a publication by Amnesty, has an nice succint article on the same issue. The article runs with a heartbreaking quote from a young Chinese migrant's suicide note:
"Migrant workers are also human beings. Why don't they pay for my work? I cannot go home because I don’t have money. I have chosen to kill myself as there is no other way."
Speaking Freely: The Asia Times, Speaking Freely column has a an interesting article by Kim Koo associate in research at the Korea Institute, Harvard University, Sung Yoon-Lee.
[Roh and Kim] both believe that North Korea has a right to develop nuclear weapons for self-defense, as it faces "external threats". As a corollary, both believe that the seven-rocket salute on July 5 (July 4 in the US - Independence Day) was a mere "political gesture" or a "routine military exercise of a sovereign nation".

Both believe that US forces in the South are an unwelcome occupying force. Consequently, both desire South Korea to "wrest away from the US" wartime operational control. Their next step is the complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement of the US-ROK Combined Forces Command. Both dream the ultimate dream of the withdrawal of US forces.

Both get a kick out of bashing Japan; however, to both men, the United States is the ultimate enemy, although they both love the US dollar. Both fear and loathe President George W Bush (the sentiments are requited by the US president). Both Roh and Kim support violent anti-US protests in South Korea. Further, they both love China.

Neither admits to the ghastly conditions of life in North Korea and the state's systematic and pervasive oppression of the most basic human rights of the majority of its people. To both men, public criticism of North Korea's human-rights violations is anathema.
Very readable, interesting stuff. Of course I do not necessarily agree with it all (or perhaps, at all). I think many of the statements lack proper clarification. For example, I don't think that Roh views the United States as the "ultimate enemy". But I do like that someone took the title of the column seriously enough to produce such an essay.

Currently reading:

"Hell" by Yasutaka Tsutsui