Migrant Worker Labor Union Denied Registration in Korea

South Korea’s first labor union for migrant laborers, Migrants’ Trade Union (MTU) has, recently, been denied registry with Korea’s labor authorities for a second time.

In 2005, the MTU sued the Korean government to gain legal recognition.  Last month, 10 years after their lawsuit began, the Korean Supreme Court released a landmark ruling that declared that all workers, regardless of their legal status, have the right to unionize in South Korea.

The MTU is a controversial issue, in Korea, due to the fact that a large percentage of its members are alleged to be illegal immigrants.

Although the Supreme Court has cleared the way for the recognition of their legal status, the union’s application to the Ministry of Employment and Labor was rejected two times. A lawyer for the Ministry stated that the application was rejected the first time because the Union’s rules advocate “legalizing illegal workers” and that “such rules would jeopardize law and order if their application was approved.” After this first rejection by the Ministry, MTU revised their rules – but were then rejected a second time last week.

The second rejection was followed by a request from the Ministry of Labor and Employment for a complete list of MTU’s members. This second rejection led to MTU members staging a protest outside the Ministry of Employment and Labor office in Seoul.

We will update the reader on this issue when more information comes available.  
Sean Hayes may be contacted at: SeanHayes@ipglegal.com.

Sean Hayes is co-chair of the Korea Practice Team at IPG Legal. He is the first non-Korean attorney to have worked for the Korean court system (Constitutional Court of Korea) and one of the first non-Koreans to be a regular member of a Korean law faculty.

Sean is ranked, for Korea, as one of only two non-Korean lawyers as a Top Attorney by AsiaLaw. Sean’s profile may be found at: Sean C. Hayes

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