Cablegate: Update of Labor Information for Mandatory Us-Korea Free
DE RUEHUL #1261/01 1210711
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 010711Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY SEOUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4205
INFO RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA J5 SEOUL KOR
RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA J2 SEOUL KOR
RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA SCJS SEOUL KOR
UNCLAS SEOUL 001261
DEPT OF STATE FOR DRL/ILCSR ATTN: MARK MITTELHAUSER, EAP/K ATTN:
DEPT OF LABOR FOR DOL/ILAB ATTN: KAREN TRAVIS
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KS ECIN ECON ELAB ETRD EAID
SUBJECT: UPDATE OF LABOR INFORMATION FOR MANDATORY US-KOREA FREE
TRADE AGREEMENT/TPA REPORTING REQUIREMENTS
REF: A. STATE 36199
1. (U) Original questions are included below from reftel. Answers
to questions follow after each question.
LEGAL FRAMEWORK FOR LABOR RIGHTS
2. (U) Question: Please provide a detailed summary of all new labor
legislation passed in 2006 and 2007. Please provide copies of the
text of this legislation, or indicate where source documents may be
-See Table 1 for the detailed summary of all new labor legislations
passed in 2006 and 2007.
-Texts of laws (in Korean) can be found in the Ministry of Labor's
website (http://www.molab.go.kr) and the website of the Ministry of
Government Legislation (http://www.klaw.go.kr). In addition, news
regarding amendments of major laws can be found at News and
Announcement of the MOL's English website
(http://english.molab.go.kr). You can find additional information at
the Labor News/Labor Today section of the Korea International Labor
Foundation (KOILAF)'s English website
3. (U) Question: With respect to the request above, please provide
as much information as possible on the revisions to the three laws
constituting the Legislation on Industrial Advancement, and the
three laws addressing non-regular workers, including citations to
the amended laws and new laws. Please also provide a summary of the
reaction of the public and the major actors in the labor relations
arena to these new laws.
-Legislation on Industrial Relations Advancement
Full text and analysis of revisions available at:
-Public Reaction: Other than from trade union members, there was
little attention given to the deal. Surprisingly, even though the
agreement delayed the implementation of the legislation by another
three years (it had already been delayed for ten years), the public
chose not to criticize the Labor Minister for not taking a more
assertive stance with employers and workers groups. The lack of
public response is most likely due to the MOL's media campaign that
portrayed the deal as in the best interest of the Korean economy.
If the MOL had pushed for the implementation of the legislation
allowing multiple unions and stopped the direct pay of union
officials, it would have undoubtedly caused confusion and panic
among employers and union members. In the end, the MOL was
satisfied as long as the employers and workers were content with the
Full text and analysis of revisions available at:
-Public Reaction: The Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU),
Ministry of Labor (MOL), Korean Tripartite Commission (KTC) and
Korean Employer's Federation (KEF) all welcomed the agreement not
only for the content of the legislation but also for their ability
to work together and come to an agreement. NOTE: The agreement
limits the amount of time an employer can employ a non-regular
worker to two years. After two years, the employer must convert the
worker to regular status. END NOTE. Noticeably absent from the
process was the largest umbrella organization, the Korean
Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), who vigorously spoke out
against the deal saying it did not provide adequate protections for
workers. The general sentiment in the public was that even a
somewhat weaker deal was better than no deal at all.
4. (U) Question: Please provide a list and citations to any other
general laws (i.e., not labor-specific legislation) which may apply
to the labor rights which are the subject of this report. For
example, we understand that the Penal Code governs legal
action/remedies for unfair dismissals of workers, and for
prosecutions of labor unions for obstruction of business. Is this
correct? Are there are other laws we should be aware of?
-The provisions on the penalties imposed in the case of unfair
dismissal of workers are prescribed in the Labor Standards Act and
not in the Penal Code. The penalty provisions of the Labor Standards
Act were abolished in the legislation for the advancement of labor
relations law in June 2006. Instead, the labor law was revised so
that a penalty will be imposed in the case when the employer does
not implement a remedy order or the decision of the National Labor
-With regard to the Penal Code governing legal action/remedies for
prosecutions of labor unions for "obstruction of business", the
"obstruction of business" charges are mainly applied to those who
obstruct businesses of others by, for example, hacking into other
people's computers, and are not specifically intended to regulate
trade union activities.
-The Trade Union and Labor Relations Adjustment Act in Korea
protects the right to collective action by stipulating that
legitimate union activities shall not be punished on obstruction of
business charges under the Criminal Code. There has been no case
where workers participating in legal industrial action have been
arrested on obstruction of business charges. However, if the
strikers use violence or commit illegal acts, the obstruction of
business charges can have been applied.
-The Korean government tries to minimize arrests, even in the case
of illegal strikes, as long as the striking workers do not resort to
acts of violence. Only in the case of striking workers committing
severe acts, including aggressive violence with a deadly weapon, are
they punished on obstruction of business charges under the Criminal
5. (U) Question: Are any further changes to labor law being
contemplated in 2007?
-See Table 2: MOL Legislation Action Plan 2007
ADMINISTRATION OF LABOR LAW
6. (U) Question: Please update the descriptions and analysis of the
Ministry of Labor and the Korean Tripartite Commission (KTC). With
respect to the KTC, please elaborate on the role it played in
developing and passing new legislation in 2006, and the
participation, or lack thereof, of the two major trade union
federations as well as other relevant actors.
-In October 2003, the KTC began to discuss the 'Plans for the
Advancement of Industrial Relations' drawn up by the government.
However, discussions were not productive due to differences between
of opinion between labor and management.
-Apart from the KTC discussion, in June 2004, a representative
meeting of representatives from government, management and labor was
held to discuss the 'Plans for the Advancement of Industrial
Relations' along with a plan to reform the KTC. The KCTU also
participated in this meeting. In December 2004, the KTC formed the
'Committee on Future Labor and Management Relations' composed of the
FKTU, KEF, Labor Ministry, the KTC, KLI and a professor. This
committee discussed contentious issues but failed to reach agreement
and subsequently ceased its discussions. In September 2005, the KTC
concluded the discussion without any agreement about the expiration
of the legal deadline for the discussion.
-In March 2006, the KTC resumed the representative meeting of labor,
management and government to discuss the plans again. Again, the
KCTU joined the meeting beginning in June.
-In September 2006, the FKTU and management agreed to a five year
suspension of the implementation of the regulations on full time
workers and multiple unions. The government and KCTU were supposed
to reveal their positions later after examining this issue in more
detail. However, the KCTU made clear that they were opposed to the
September agreement. On September 11, 2006, the government, FKTU
and management finally agreed to a three year suspension of the
implementation instead of another five year suspension. Since
September, there have been no further significant developments in
7. (U) Question: Please describe how the central and local Labor
Relations Commissions operate, and their scope of responsibilities,
including latitude in choice of remedies applied. Please provide
-The number of disputes that were mediated and arbitrated in 2005,
2006, and if available, through early 2007.
-A breakout of types of disputes handled through mediation and/or
-Operation: The Labor Relations Commissions (LRC) are
consensus-based administrative bodies consisting of tripartite
representatives: workers, employers and the government. They are
independent, quasi-judicial institutions and their major roles are
to mediate and adjudicate disputes between workers and employers.
-The Labor Relations Commissions consist of the National Labor
Relations Commission, 12 regional Labor Relations Commissions and
one Special Labor Relations Commission (Seamen's Labor Relations
-The Labor Relations Commissions include an Adjudication Committee,
Mediation Committee, Special Mediation Committee, Arbitration
Committee, Teachers' Labor Relations Mediation Committee and Public
Officials Labor Relations Mediation Committee. A Secretariat is
established in the Labor Relations Commissions to organize the work
of the Commissions.
-Functions: Pursuant to Article 28 of the Labor Standards Act and
Article 82 of the Trade Union and Labor Relations Adjustment Act,
the Labor Relations Commissions conduct adjudication over unfair
dismissal and unfair labor practices and issue remedy orders.
-The order of remedy for unfair dismissal consists mainly of
reinstatement and payment of an amount equivalent to wages lost (an
amount that was to be paid to the worker if he/she was not
dismissed). With the amendment of the Labor Standards Act beginning
in July 2007, if the dismissed worker does not wish to get
reinstated in his/her work, the Labor Relations Commissions can
order a monetary compensation in an amount equal to or greater than
the lost wages instead of reinstatement.
-The order of remedy for unfair labor practices may take different
forms depending on the employer's behavior toward the workers and
the seriousness of the violation of rights. Remedies include
reinstatement (order to restore the worker to the former position
before he/she was unfairly treated) and prohibition or prevention of
employer control and intervention.
-The Labor Relations Commissions also conduct mediation and
arbitration in accordance with the Trade Union and Labor Relations
Adjustment Act. In the case of a request for mediation from a trade
union or from an employer in a labor dispute due to failure of
bargaining about working conditions, the Labor Relations Committees
investigates the facts by listening to the arguments of the parties
concerned, prepares a mediated proposal and recommends it to the
parties for their consideration.
-Also, the Labor Relations Commissions conduct the arbitration when
both parties submit a request for arbitration or one of the parties'
requests arbitration by collective agreement. The arbitration
ruling has the same effect as a collective agreement, regardless of
whether the parties concerned accept it or not.
See Table 3: Number of Mediated cases and results from 2005 to
8. (U) Question: Please describe any other judicial or
quasi-judicial institutions which have responsibility for enforcing
the labor laws which are the subject of this report. For example,
for cases which are prosecuted under the Penal Code, which courts
are involved; what is the scope of remedies and/or penalties
available; and what is the appeals process?
-A person dissatisfied with the Regional Labor Relations
Commission's order of remedy may ask NLRC for review of the decision
and the application for review should be submitted within ten days
from date of the receipt of the decision of the Regional Labor
-A person dissatisfied with the NLRC's decision may resort to
administrative litigation within fifteen days from the date of the
receipt of the decision of the NLRC.
-If the application for review or the administrative litigation
(Administrative court - High court - Supreme Court) is not filed
within the above-mentioned period, the order of remedy is finalized.
-NOTE: The order of remedy remains effective even after the
application for review or the administrative litigation is filed.
-However, a worker who considers himself/herself to have been
unfairly dismissed does not have to follow the procedures of remedy
at the Labor Relations Commission, and he/she can file a lawsuit
directly with the civil court (High court-Supreme court).
-Attachment: A Manual for Labor Management for Foreign Investors
published by the KOILAF will be sent separately via pouch.
LABOR RIGHTS AND THEIR APPLICATION
9. (U) Question: Please provide the latest figures on the number of
trade unions and their respective membership. Please include data on
independent trade unions.
-As of the end of 2005, the total number of trade unions was 5,971
and the number of union members was 1,506,172 persons.
10. (U) Question: How many trade unions are currently not
recognized by MOL? Why? Seoul 507, paragraph 9, notes that these
trade unions generally operated without government interference. Is
this still the case?
-The Trade Union and Labor Relations Adjustment Act allows workers
to freely organize a trade union. By reporting its organization to
an administrative agency, the trade union can be established.
-However, an organization set up by persons who are not "workers"
(for example, an employer), or an organization whose operation is
mainly funded by employers, or an organization whose main purpose is
to engage in public welfare work or political activities cannot be
regarded as a trade union. Therefore, in the above-mentioned cases,
the application for establishment of trade union is rejected. Data
on these cases is not separately identified or managed.
-Trade unions not recognized by MOL continue to generally operate
without government interference.
11. (U) Question: Please provide citations to, or copies of, source
material that explains the historic decline in trade union
-During the period of 1996 through 2005, the number of trade union
members has not changed much, maintaining 1,400,000 to 1,500,000
persons. But, as the number of wage earners (potential members of
trade union) increases every year (except for 1998) while the number
of unionists remains constant, the union organization rate has
decreased every year (organization rate: 13.3 percent (1996) to 12.0
percent (2001) to 10.3 percent (2005).
-See Table 4: Union Participation
12. (U) Question: Seoul 507, paragraph 18, notes that the Council
of Korea Employers' Organizations (CKEO) and Korea Employers
Federation (KEF) do not participate in collective bargaining and
instead tend to influence the more working-level Korean government
policy-making agenda and National Labor Relations Board discussions.
Please elaborate on these points, e.g., the specific role these
entities play in policy-making. What is the relationship between the
roles played by high-ranking officials in FKTU and KCTU in
collective bargaining versus their counterpart employer
-The Korea Employers Federation (KEF) is the official voice of
Korean businesses in the fields of labor and social affairs and
represents the interests of employers in various social dialogues.
-The KEF is dedicated to improving labor legislation, assisting in
wage negotiations and collective bargaining, preventing labor
disputes, assisting corporate human resource management, building
business-friendly industrial safety and health systems, enhancing
the efficiency of the social security system and establishing a
productive welfare system.
-Particularly in relation to the Korea Tripartite Commission, the
highest-level officials from tripartite parties including the KEF
participate in the Plenary Committee to deliberate about labor
policies and working conditions, principles and directions of the
restructuring of the public sector as well as the development of
systems and practices in industrial relations, and matters
pertaining to support for projects designed for promoting
cooperation among the tripartite parties. The second highest level
officials from the tripartite parties participate in the Standing
Committee where they review agenda submissions and coordinate on the
matters entrusted to the Plenary Committee.
-The National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) mainly performs
adjudication and adjustment of labor relations. The KEF recommends
candidates for the NLRC to represent employers and public interests.
Officials from the KEF may participate in discussions at the NLRC
as members representing employers. The number of members of the
NLRC who are designated by the President is prescribed based on
consideration of work load. NLRC representatives are limited as
follows: workers, not fewer than ten; employers, not more than 50;
government, not more than 70. The KEF, when requested, submits
employers' opinions or papers on relevant issues to the NLRC.
-To help individual enterprises successfully participate in
collective bargaining, the KEF publishes the guidelines for
collective bargaining and wage negotiation and provides its member
companies and organizations with advisory and consulting services.
The KEF does not participate directly in collective bargaining under
its name but its officials may participate in collective bargaining
and wage negotiations in a personal capacity as a bargaining agent.
In this sense, the KEF sometimes participates in the collective
bargaining of individual enterprises.
-The CKEO, founded in 1989, contributes to the development of labor
policies and the enhancement of cooperation between labor and
management by forging a close alliance among employers'
organizations in the nation. The CKEO, chaired by the leadership of
the KEF, includes five national-level economic organizations and 87
regional employers' organizations as its members.
-The CKEO does not participate in collective bargaining but still
influences the government policy-making by publishing employers'
joint statements on specific issues or by holding high-level talks
with Ministers and other senior government officials.
-Leaders of the two largest trade union umbrella organizations (KCTU
and FKTU) influence collective bargaining by publishing their
respective guidelines to lead collective bargaining and wage
negotiations. However, high-level officials of both trade union
umbrella organizations often directly intervene to handle bargaining
or labor disputes of their strategically important workplaces.
-For labor and social policies intended to improve working
conditions, the two trade union umbrella organizations typically
cooperate with each other at all levels, though they are sometimes
at odds about specific issues. A case in point is their
disagreement on the Legislation on the Industrial Relations
Advancement and the Reform of the Industrial Accident Compensation
-These conflicts have often resulted from a minor difference in the
strategies and tactics of the labor movement between the groups.
The FKTU is pursuing a pragmatic labor movement, valuing the
importance of the social dialogue, while the KCTU gives priority to
a more radical labor movement, preferring strikes to talks with
employers or the government. High-level officials of the KEF have
been involved in talks through various official and non-official
channels with their counterparts of the FKTU and the KCTU, even when
tensions appeared to be mounting between the three parties over key
13. (U) Question: Please provide the latest figures on the
percentage of the workforce that are non-regular workers, broken out
by type (e.g., contract, temporary, part-time). If available, please
also provide a breakout of the differences in wages, benefits, and
job security by type of non-regular worker.
-See Table 5: Numbers of workers
-See Table 6: Wage level of workers
-See Table 7: Comparison of Non-regular workers by voluntary and
-See Table 8: Percentage of workers receiving employee welfare
14. (U) Question: Past estimates of the non-regular workforce
appear to have varied considerably between the MOL, National
Statistics Office, Korean Labor Institute, and the respective trade
union federations. What accounts for the differences in these
estimates? Please provide comparative estimates or data where
available, and an assessment of the accuracy/reliability of these
-In Korea, the statistics on non-regular workers of the government,
research institutes, and the labor community are all derived from
the same data obtained by the Economically Active Population Survey
and the Supplementary Survey to the Economically Active Population
Survey conducted by the National Statistical Office. The reason why
the estimates of the non-regular workforce vary depending on who
compiles the statistics is that each organization applies a slightly
different scope to the non-regular workforce.
-The Economically Active Population Survey and the Supplementary
Survey to the Economically Active Population Survey are conducted
during the same period on the same sample households. Except for the
difference in survey items, they are practically identical surveys.
-The definition of non-regular workers is not internationally
standardized. In July 2002 the tripartite partners at the Korea
Tripartite Commission agreed to the definition of non-regular
workers. According to this definition, non-regular workers include
contingent workers, part-time workers and atypical workers.
-However, the Korea Labor Society Institute (KLSI) adds the number
of temporary and daily workers, as calculated by the Economically
Active Population Survey, in addition to the non-regular worker
numbers defined by the tripartite parties.
-The method used by the KLSI is erroneous because the classification
of temporary and daily workers in the Economically Active Population
Survey is not based on the type of employment of the workers. For
this reason, the Supplementary Survey to the Economically Active
Population Survey was conducted to figure out the type of employment
of non-regular workers.
-Currently, the National Statistical Office publishes official
figures of non-regular workers as agreed upon at the Korea
Tripartite Commission. According to the figures, as of August 2006,
there are 5,460,000 non-regular workers (35.5 percent of total wage
-Consequently, there is no statistical disparity within the
government agencies regarding the number of non-regular workers.
The figures by the Korea Labor Institute are also almost the same as
the government's statistics, with some negligible difference
occurring due to a finer statistical break-down.
Freedom of Association
15. (U) Question: Have there been any amendments to the January
2006 law granting limited rights to public employees to associate
and bargain collectively? Specifically, does the proscription on
association and bargaining still apply to civil servants above grade
5? What percentage of the public sector is thereby excluded? What
specifically are permissible and non-permissible subjects for
-Public officials' right to organize: The Korean government
implemented institutional reforms in stages to guarantee freedom of
association to public officials. In the first stage, public
officials were allowed to organize workplace associations (1999).
At the second stage, based on the tripartite agreements of February
6, 1998 and after gathering opinions from the public and discussions
at the Korea Tripartite Commission over five years, the Act on
Establishment and Operation of Public Officials' Trade Unions
(Public Officials' Trade Union Act) was enacted on January 27, 2005
and entered into force on January 28, 2006. Under this Act, public
officials have the right to freely set up a trade union and are
allowed to make agreements through collective negotiation with
government representatives in relation to their working conditions.
-However, public officials' working conditions are determined by
laws and budgets. Given the nature of their work with the public
and the importance that the continuation of national functions must
be secured as well as the fact that their status is firmly
guaranteed by the Constitution and laws, some public officials'
right to collective action is inevitably restricted. NOTE: The
right to collective action was already recognized for general
government employees (e.g. job counselors in job centers) who are
not professional public officials subject to the Public Officials
Act, and for public officials engaged in manual labor, such as those
in postal services and the National Medical Centers. END NOTE.
-Korea adopted a professional public officials system, characterized
by its strong rank scheme, under which public officials are given
different authority and responsibility according to their rank.
Public officials at grade five or above account for only four
percent (40,000 persons) of the 940,000 public officials. The
number of grade five public officials is approximately 29,000.
Because they usually hold a managerial position, directly taking
part in decisions on major national policies or supervising and
directing subordinates, they have been excluded from those eligible
to join a trade union.
-According to the ILO Convention No. 151, the right to organize can
be restricted by national laws or regulations for "high-level
employees whose functions are normally considered as policy-making
or managerial, or employees whose duties are of a highly
confidential nature." Management officials and supervisors have
thus been largely excluded by law in many countries from the scope
of public officials guaranteed the right to organize. Nevertheless,
the ROKG is planning to consider allowing public officials at grade
five to organize and join an association, as a long-term goal, so
that these officials can better represent their interests.
-Matters subject to Collective Bargaining: The Public Officials'
Trade Union Act provides that matters concerning public officials'
remunerations, pensions and welfare and other matters directly
related to working conditions and trade unions are the subjects of
collective bargaining between the government representatives and
public officials' unions for a collective agreement.
-However, unlike workers in the private sector, public officials'
status is guaranteed by the Constitution and laws and most of their
working conditions are determined by laws and budgets. Therefore,
the ROK Government maintains that there are limitations when making
decisions regarding working conditions through collective
negotiation between the government and public officials' unions.
Matters concerning policy by national and local authorities and
matters concerning managerial rights are also excluded from
collective bargaining. NOTE: The following areas are
non-permissible subjects for bargaining (Article 4 of the
Enforcement Decree of the Act on the Establishment and Operation of
Public Officials' Trade Unions): Matters concerning policy planning
or establishment of plans, matters concerning the exercise of
appointment authorities including hiring, promoting and transferring
public officials, matters concerning the organization of a body and
the regular staff, matters concerning the drawing up and execution
of budgets and funding, matters concerning contestation where the
administrative agency is the party to the suit and other matters
concerning the management and operation of the organization. END
-Since the Constitution gives the National Assembly the authority to
make laws and determine budgets, the collective agreements of public
officials, even if they are signed through agreement between labor
and management, cannot take precedence over the laws and budgets
passed by the National Assembly. Even so, the Act on Establishment
and Operation of Public Officials' Trade Unions has great
significance in that it recognizes public officials' right to make
collective agreements and requires the government representatives to
implement the concluded collective agreements in good faith.
-In addition, although matters concerning policy decisions or
personnel appointments are excluded from collective negotiation,
such exclusion is inevitable as these matters are the public-sector
equivalent of personnel and managerial rights in the private sector.
-Officials from the MOL noted that most countries adopting
professional public officials' system grants in general only the
right to collective bargaining, not the right to conclude collective
agreements, and the matters concerning personnel and appointments
and managerial rights are usually excluded from the negotiation.
16. (U) Question: Please provide an update on the status of the
Korean Government Employees Union as well as the Confederation of
Government Employees. What rights can each now exercise under the
-Under current law, public officials have the right to freely set up
a trade union and are allowed to conclude collective agreements
through collective negotiation with government representatives, as
long as they establish a union and register with the government as
prescribed by law.
-As of April 13, 2007, a total of 91 government trade unions had
been established with membership totaling 83,687. Out of the 91
unions, 42 unions were negotiating with government representatives
over their working conditions and a total of 15 trade unions had
concluded collective agreements.
-Immediately after the Act on the Establishment and Operation of
Public Officials' Trade Unions came into effect, the Korea
Federation of Government Employees (KFGE) registered their
establishment according to the Act on September 4, 2006 and has
since functioned as a legitimate trade union. Following its
registration, the KFGE has actively carried out union activities and
is now preparing for negotiations with the Ministry of Government
Administration and Home Affairs--the bargaining representative of
the government--to discuss working conditions for public officials,
including pensions, extension of the retirement age, wages, and
other issues. Thus, for the first-time in the Republic of Korea, a
central-level collective negotiation between public officials'
unions and the government is likely to take place.
-The Korean Government Employees Union (KGEU) continues to refuse to
engage in legal union activities while demanding the right to
strike. However, as unions are established and collective
negotiations increase within the current law, the demand from union
members that KGEU convert to a legitimate union and pursue
legitimate union activities has grown.
-For example, as of April 5, 2007, 23 branch offices with 11,229
members had seceded from the KGEU and registered themselves as
legitimate trade unions. In addition, during two conventions of
union delegates held on November 25, 2006 and February 24, 2007, the
agenda item of "the conversion of the KGEU into an legitimate union"
was tabled for a vote, but some union officials occupied the
platform and physically obstructed the proceedings of the convention
and consequently blocked the democratic decision making procedures
for the KGEU's conversion into a legitimate union.
-As the demand from the rank-and-file union members for the
conversion of the KGEU into a legitimate union continues to grow, it
is expected to register as a legitimate union and pursue legitimate
trade union activities in the future.
17. (U) Question: Please provide the latest data on the number of
strikes, number of legal versus illegal strikes, number of workers
participating in strikes, and number of lost workdays. Please
identify data sources, including an assessment of reliability.
-See Table 9: The number of strikes (legal versus illegal), number
of workers participating in strikes, and number of lost workdays
covering the period from 2005 through 2007 March.
18. (U) Question: How often have criminal proceedings been
initiated against illegal strikes? How many strikes were deemed
illegal because of obstruction to business? How many trade unions
and workers were prosecuted under the Penal Code for obstruction to
-The Korean government protects union workers' legal strike
activities according to existing laws and principles, but sternly
copes with illegal or violent strike activities, without exception.
There have not been any instances of punishment due to an illegal
strike itself. Punishment was due to additional criminal acts such
as violence or occupation of facilities.
-During the past two years, the only instance deemed illegal because
of obstruction to business was in March 2006 when the railway union
strikes brought about serious damage to the nation's economy, in
spite of mediation. The remaining instances were punished as
illegal strikes or by additional criminal acts such as violence or
occupation of facilities.
-In regard to the charge of obstruction of business, the criminal
law stipulates that those who obstruct business by exercising a
deceptive scheme or power should be punished. Those who were
prosecuted on charges of obstruction of business, without additional
criminal acts, numbered three in 2006, and related to the cases of
the railway union. Subsequent to their arrest, two were released on
bail and one received probation.
19. (U) Question: Please provide data from the most recent two
years on the number of trade unionists detained and arrested, and
the reason(s) why.
-In 2005, 114 trade unionists were arrested. All 114 were
prosecuted because of their involvement in additional criminal acts
such as violence, throwing Molotov cocktails, injuring policemen or
-In 2006, out of 188 prosecuted, 185 were involved in violence and
the remaining three, members of the railway union, were prosecuted
simply on charges of obstruction of business.
20. (U) Question: Please provide the full citation to the "law on
demonstrations. How frequently has Article 12 of that law been
invoked to deny trade unions the right to assemble? Please provide
data from the last two years, if available. Has the ROK responded to
the request from the U.N. Human Rights Committee for detailed
information on the frequency of, and circumstances under which,
Article 12 has been used to deny freedom of assembly? If so, please
provide a copy or an online source.
-See Table 10: Statistics on the issuance of prohibition order on
assemblies based on Article 12 of the Assembly and Demonstrations
-The ROKG indicated they have not received a request from the UN
Human Rights Committee for the information on the frequency or
circumstances under which Article 12 has been used to deny freedom
of assembly in Korea.
Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
21. (U) Question: Will the KTC be the sole venue for discussions on
how to advance the multiple unions reform now slated for
implementation at the end of 2009? What is KCTU's position on
participation in discussions concerning this reform?
-During the three-year suspension period, the KTC will draw up plans
for minimizing possible troubles when multiple unions are
implemented and the ban of payment for union officials begins.
-KCTU has yet to clarify its position on participating in the KTC.
As one possible indicator of its desire to play a part in the
discussion, KCTU proposed to form a task force between labor and
government in March 2007. Although the proposed task force was
primarily focused on the Korean Government Employees' Union, KCTU
proposed that the task force look into other industrial relations
issues as well. The government refused the proposal and KCTU has
since remained silent on the matter.
22. (U) Question: How many trade unions are registered in the free
economic zones (FEZs)? If any, how many workers do these unions
represent? Please break out these data by domestic and foreign
enterprises. If available, please provide data on the number of
collective bargaining agreements in domestic and foreign
enterprises, and their scope of coverage.
-See Table 11: The number of trade unions registered in the Free
Economic Zones and the number of union members.
-Under the Constitution and the Act on the Trade Union and Labor
Relations Adjustment Act, the right to bargain collectively and the
right to conclude collective agreements for trade unions are
protected, regardless of the number of union members. Therefore,
most trade unions conclude collective agreements with employers
which apply to the corresponding trade unionists. There is no
separate data on the number of collective agreements concluded or on
the scope of coverage.
Acceptable Conditions of Work
23. (U) Question: For each of the categories below (wages, hours,
and occupational safety and health), please also include information
on the number of labor inspectors, number of inspections conducted
over the two most recent years for which data are available, number
and type of violations found, and corresponding remedies applied
and/or penalties assessed. Please indicate source and reliability
-See Table 12: Number of Labor Inspectors
-See Table 13: Number of inspections conducted, violations committed
and their type, applied remedies or penalties imposed
24. (U) Question: Minimum Wage: Please provide the most recent
figures on the minimum wage and the percentage of the workforce
-See Table 14: Minimum wages and those subject to the Minimum wages
-Reduction of work hours: statutory hours of work are being reduced
from 44 hours per week to 40 hours. The 40-hour work week is being
implemented in stages for all workplaces in accordance with the
statutory enforcement date.
-Statutory enforcement date (Addenda 4 of the Labor Standards Act):
July 2004 for Finance, Insurance, Public services firms, Businesses
with 1000 employees or more; July 2005 for businesses with 300
employees or more; July 2006 for businesses with 100 employees or
more; July 2007 for businesses with 50 employees or more; July 2008
for businesses with 20 employees or more. A date will be set later
for businesses with fewer than 20 employees but it will be before
2011. The total number of hours worked has decreased since 2000.
-See Table 15: Total hours worked per year
25. (U) Question: Hours of Work: Per paragraph 17 of septel 06
Seoul 549, is the ROK still on target to reduce the legal workweek
for employees in small to medium-sized enterprises according to the
timeline given here? How widespread are problems related to forced
overtime in small and medium enterprises? If data are available,
please provide statistics.
-The ROK continues on its path to implement the reduced hours of
work. Last year the law took effect for enterprises with more than
100 employees and this July it will take effect for enterprises with
50 or more employees.
-Pursuant to Article 53 of the Labor Standards Act, hours of work
may be extended up to 12 hours per week if the parties concerned
reach agreement, but there were no cases reported of forced overtime
-However, 69 violations of rules on the prohibition of extended work
were reported in 2006 for working hours exceeding 12 hours per week,
regardless of whether it was based on the agreement between workers
and employers. Source: MOL Electronic System (Nosanuri, as of April
26. (U) Question: Please clarify what the law states regarding when
overtime must be paid. Is the 50 percent wage premium for overtime
work mandated by law for all enterprises?
-Working hours per week must not exceed 40 hours excluding rest
hours. However, if the parties concerned reach an agreement,
working hours may be extended up to 12 hours per week (Article 53 of
the Labor Standards Act).
-In this case, an employer must pay 50 percent more for the extended
hours as provided for in Article 56 of the Labor Standards Act
(Article 56 of the Labor Standards Act). However, for three years
from the enforcement date of the 40-hour work week, working hours
may be extended up to 16 hours if the parties concerned reach an
agreement. For the first four hours of extended work, an employer
is only required to pay 25 percent more (Addenda 4, the Labor
Standards Act). The provisions on overtime work apply to all
businesses or workplaces where 5 workers or more are employed
(Article 11 of the Labor Standards Act).
27. (U) Question: Occupational Safety and Health: Please provide
the most recent data on the number of injuries, accidents, and
fatalities. As requested above, please include available data on
remedies and penalties.
-As of September 2006, there were 59,134,271 injuries, 60,119
accidents and 1,858 fatalities reported in 2006.
-Out of 11,479,107 workers working at 1,213,608 workplaces covered
by the Casualty Compensation Insurance Act, casualties requiring
medical care for 4 days or more numbered 67,271. The accident rate
was 0.59 percent.
28. (U) Question: The 2006 Human Rights Report notes that Korea's
accident rate is high by international standards. What data were
used to make this comparison? What has accounted for the
historically high rate of fatalities from industrial accidents?
-According to the Labor Ministry's second Five-Year Plan for the
Prevention of Industrial Accidents, it is difficult to compare Korea
to other nations because the ROK does not have generalized
international standards regarding the calculation of accident rates.
Additionally, standards to compile statistics and definitions of
occupational accidents are different. However, the 2002 analysis
shows that Korea's accidental rate was 0.65 percent, higher than
Japan's of 0.26 percent when converted and compared to Japanese
-Korea's occupational fatality rate was 1.45 in 2003, 2.4 to 5 times
higher when compared with Japan (0.33 in 2001), Germany (0.29 in
2001) and the U.S. (0.60 in 2001).
-Some possible reasons that the MOL offered for Korea's higher
fatalities are: first, Korea's rapid economic growth and development
leads to process variation; second, the increase of death and
accidents of non-professional workers because of the flexibility of
labor markets and reliance on foreign workers; third, the rise in
occupational diseases because of occupational stress and the use of
hazardous and dangerous chemicals.
29. (U) Question: Please provide a brief description of the Fatal
Accident Prevention Program, and how it is contributing to a
reduction of fatalities (assuming this trend has continued through
-The program is designed to provide technical services and education
on occupational safety and health to help prevent serious accidents
and death at the workplace.
-The Labor Ministry and KOSHA are pushing ahead with the High-Five
Movement, a labor and management self-supported prevention project,
by choosing the top 5 occupations in terms of fatality risk and high
-With this movement started in May 2005, the Labor Ministry and
KOSHA have engaged in various public relations activities such as
distribution of leaflets, publication of technical materials about
occupations that frequently result in occupational diseases,
creation and operation of a website and guidance of visits to
workplaces. As of March 2007, there were approximately 200
workplaces which had registered with the High-Five Movement.
-The KOSHA inspects and verifies prevention plans on dangerous and
hazardous facilities so that the builder can manage dangerous
elements of large-scale construction projects and check in
periodically during construction. This brought about favorable
results as fatalities at construction sites declined by 0.3
-Recognizing that oil refining and chemical plants may seriously
affect residents near the plant, the environment and plant workers,
the KOSHA implemented the 'Process Safety Management System' (PMS).
Under PMS, notoriously dangerous operations must submit a process
safety report when building a new facility for inspection and
verification to help prevent serious industrial accidents. 781
facilities are currently being managed under the PMS plan.
-In addition, in order to reduce accidents in small workplaces that
have a poor working environment, the KOSHA is conducting 'Making
Clean Workplaces' (367 million dollars during the period of 2002
through 2006). This project provides facilities with improvement
expenses and a 'Comprehensive Health Promotion Program,' to prevent
occupational diseases and educate employees on industrial safety and
30. (U) Question: KoILAF has recently reported on the MOL's 2007
Comprehensive Plan for Labor-Management at the Workplace. What
precipitated this initiative? Will MOL hire more inspectors to
-The MOL reports that worksite inspections have been carried out
continuously since the enactment of the Labor Standards Act in 1953,
in a effort to protect basic rights for vulnerable workers,
including non-regular workers. Inspections in 2007 will be
strengthened much more than 2006 as the implementation of the
non-regular workers-related laws begins in 2007. The number of
worksites to be inspected will be increased from 12,620 in 2006 to
18,470 in 2007.
-Worksite inspections are being carried out by 1,093 labor
inspectors from the 46 local labor offices across the country. As
the Act Concerning Protection of Fixed-term and Part-time Employees
will be implemented from July 1, 2007, there is need for more labor
inspectors to carry out effectively the discrimination related work.
But as of now, there are no plans for hiring more labor inspectors.
For reference, 80 additional labor inspectors were added in 2005
and 374 labor inspectors were added in 2004.
31. (U) Question: Please provide updated figures on the number of
foreign workers in the country, broken out by country of origin.
-See Table 16: Foreign Workers in ROK
32. (U) Question: How many workers have now entered under the new
permit system? Have any of these workers joined or organized trade
-See Table 17: Foreign workers in EPS
-Currently, there are no instances of foreign workers who came to
Korea under EPS who have established a trade union or joined a
union. There was a case where foreign workers applied for the
establishment of a trade union; however, the application was
rejected because there were illegal workers among the applicants.
-NOTE: Case for rescission of the decision to reject the
application for the establishment of a trade union (Case No. 2006
6774). END NOTE.
33. (U) Question: Have the provisions of the Industrial Safety and
Health Act been extended to illegal foreign workers? If not, when
is this expected to occur?
-The purpose of the Industrial Safety and Health Act is to maintain
and improve the safety and health of workers as prescribed in the
Labor Standards Act. Provided that illegal foreign workers are not
excluded from the definition of a worker as outlined by the Labor
Standards Act, the Act applies to foreign workers, too (Illegal
foreign workers have never been excluded from the protection).
34. (U) Question: How many foreign workers are employed in the
domestic/household service sector?
-As of January 2007, 3,563 ethnic Koreans of foreign citizenship are
employed in the domestic/household service sector. The
domestic/household service sector is authorized for the employment
of ethnic Koreans with foreign citizenship only under the Special
Employment Permit System.
35. (U) Question: In what sectors/industries have there been
reports of worker abuse? Please provide any available data.
-Not specific sectors, but reports of worker abuse typically relate
to unpaid wages or industrial accidents of foreign workers. These
reports are possible in all industries employing foreign workers.
-In 2006, 1,330 employers were charged with worker abuse. Of these,
six were prosecuted. For the period of January through February
2007, 221 employers were charged.
36. (U) Question: Please let us know if there are any other
documents or source materials which would be useful in drafting our
report, either that you could provide or that we could obtain from
Post is sending Labor Management Manual for Foreign Investors and
other materials via pouch for your reference.
Post submitted statistical tables in a Word file via e-mail.