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South Korea: Constitutional Court Recognized Equal Labour Rights for "Industrial Trainees"

     On 30 August 2007, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Korea declared unconstitutionality of the Guidelines on the Protection and Management of Industrial and Technical Trainees from Abroad, issued by the Ministry of Labour, in that the Guidelines deny industrial trainees some of the important rights guaranteed under the Labour Standard Law, including the rights to retirement allowance and to institutionalized leaves.
     The case was brought to the Constitutional Court in 2004 by Pakistani and Uzbek workers who had worked as industrial trainees. The Constitutional Court stated: “When industrial trainees are working under virtual labour relationship, providing labour as a matter of fact in the name of training under the guidance and supervision of their employers and receiving remunerations in cash or in kind in the name of stipends, it is difficult to find reasonable grounds for excluding industrial trainees from abroad from the scope of the important provisions of the Labour Standard Law”.
     Since the introduction of the “industrial trainee” system in 1991, small and medium-sized businesses, suffering from the shortages of labour, have accepted non-skilled workers from abroad. This has resulted, however, in many cases of their employment under poor working conditions with low wages. Many of them have left the system and become unregistered workers, which has made the issue a matter of social concern. As a result, the industrial trainee system was abolished in January 2007 and integrated into the employment permission system, which was introduced in 2004.
     The judgment of the Constitutional Court also implies that workers’ rights should apply to both national and non-national workers on an equal basis. It is likely to have an impact on policies concerning foreign workers. (1 September 2007)

Source: Constitutional Court of the Republic of Korea [Korean]

See also:
· The Hankyoreh, 31 August 2007 [Korean]
· OhmyNews, 31 August 2007 [Korean]