Labor Act Standards

Article 2 of the Labor Standards Act defines the term "worker" as "a person, regardless of being engaged in whatever occupation, who offers work to a business or workplace for the purpose of earning wages." This includes migrant workers, which means that they are also supposed to be protected under Korea's labor laws. 

In reality, however, the rights and protections enshrined in these laws are frequently violated, especially when it comes to migrant workers. Through our conversations with many migrants, we have compiled a list of key labor legislation and common transgressions.

Violations

[WORKING CONDITIONS]

LABOR STANDARDS ACT

Article 50 (Work Hours)

(1) Work hours shall not exceed 40 hours a week, excluding hours of recess.

(2) Work hours shall not exceed eight hours a day, excluding hours of recess.

Everybody we interviewed said they worked over 40 hours a week. Given the 40 hours per week limit, workers should not be working more than 8 hours each day, excluding recess. Some, however, even reported working 12-hour shifts with only 10 minutes of recess.

LABOR STANDARDS ACT

Article 78 (Compensation for Medical Treatment)

(1) An employer shall provide necessary medical treatment at his/her expense or bear corresponding expenses for an employee who suffers from an occupational injury or disease.

Article 80 (Compensation for Disability)

(1) When an employee suffers a physical disability remaining after finishing treatment for an occupational injury or disease, the employer shall provide him/her with a compensation for disability calculated by multiplying the average wages by the number of days as provided for in attached Table.

Most of the migrants workers we interviewed had to pay for the treatment of their injuries out of their own pocket because their employers didn't cover the expenses.

Despite being entitled to compensation for their physical disability, some migrant workers did not receive any. The factories instead told them to work more to cover the cost of the medical bills incurred from their initial visit to the hospital — expenses that the employer are supposed to pay for.

In other cases, the employers didn't calculate the compensation for disabilities properly, setting the average wage as half of the actual amount.

OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH ACT

Article 36 (Safety Inspections)

(1) A business owner who uses harmful or dangerous machinery, apparatus, or equipment determined by Presidential Decree shall undergo an inspection conducted by the Minister of Employment and Labor to verify whether the safety-related performance of harmful or dangerous machinery, etc. conform with inspection standards determined and published by the Minister of Employment and Labor. Where the business owner who uses harmful or dangerous machinery, etc. is not the owner of the relevant machinery, etc., the owner shall undergo the safety inspection on the machinery, etc.

Most of the machines used in the factories by the migrant workers we talked to were dangerous and old. These machines were not equipped with a function that automatically stops when it detects any human body parts in its way. 

[GOVERNMENT INSPECTIONS]

[COMPENSATION]