Employment and Labor Minister Lee Jae-kap is pictured explaining the government`s preparation to ratify three ILO conventions. [Photo by the Ministry of Employment and Labor]
The South Korean government is poised to propose ratification of three of four core conventions the country has put off since joining the International Labor Organization (ILO) in 1991, a move that can further strengthen contentious unions and dampen corporate sentiment.
Employment and Labor Minister Lee Jae-kap told reporters on Wednesday the government will prepare for the ratification process for three out of the four key conventions, saying it has no other way but to clarify its position as the Economic, Social and Labor Council eventually failed to reach an agreement.
Since its participation in the ILO in 1991, South Korea has ratified four out of the eight key conventions so far, including bans on discrimination and child labor conventions.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in pledged to ratify the remaining key conventions during his election campaign and set up the multi-party council to discuss the proposed ratification. But an agreement was not ultimately reached after 10 months of discussion, and the labor community had demanded ratification separate from legislation and parliamentary consent, which was initially rejected by the government due to objections by entrepreneurs.
The government’s sudden policy changeover is expected to cause confusion in workplaces and other areas. Once the ILO’s Convention on the freedom of association and voluntary grouping and membership is ratified, the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union, which was outlawed, can become legal. Regarding the Convention 29 which prohibits forced labor, the government should modify its alternative military services once it is ratified.
The Korea Employers Federation expressed regrets, saying the government’s plan to ratify the conventions without revising laws will undermine industrial competitiveness.
By Yoon Jin-ho and Minu Kim
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