May 22, 2019
This is an announcement of the Government to explain its position regarding the developments of the recent discussions of and future plans for ratification of the ILO fundamental conventions.
As well known, the International Labour Organization (ILO) is a specialized United Nations (UN) agency, participated by tripartite constituents to address issues of labour and employment.
The ILO has set eight Conventions as “Fundamental” and all its members are encouraged to ratify them. These Conventions are related with the four fundamental principles regarding freedom of association, abolition of forced labour, prohibition of child labour, and elimination of discrimination.
However, Korea has not yet ratified four of them. They are two Conventions on freedom of association (C.87, C.98) and other two on forced labour (C.29, C.105).
Recently, protection of labour rights is gaining importance in Free Trade Agreements (FTAs).
The European Union, in particular, initiated dispute settlement procedure under Chapter 13 of the Korea-EU FTA for the reasons of insufficient efforts towards ratification of the ILO fundamental Conventions. This is the first case of dispute in the world specifically regarding the ratification of the ILO fundamental Conventions.
Now the EU is considering a Panel of Experts procedure. Concerns are rising on economic uncertainties as a result of this as Korea is a country that heavily depends on exports.
As for the Conventions on Freedom of Association, discussions have taken place at the Economic, Social and Labor Council since July 2018. Labor, management, government, and experts participated at the discussions. Although there have been public interest members’ proposals on two occasions, the discussions at the ESLC ended on May 20th without reaching an agreement between the workers and employers.
It would have been most desirable if it were possible to achieve compromise and concessions through social dialogue. We unfortunately missed this opportunity and the Government will now present its future plans to build on the discussions so far in order to ratify the ILO fundamental Conventions.
First, the Government will pursue ratification of three out of the four unratified ILO fundamental Conventions.
The Government will start its ratification procedures regarding three Conventions on Freedom of Associations (C.87, C.98) and Forced Labor (C.29).
According to the Constitution, for ratification of Conventions that need legislation, we need an approval of the National Assembly.
My ministry will initiate consultations on procedural matters with representatives of workers and employers as well as relevant ministries. It will submit the motions regarding ratification to the regular session of the National Assembly.
As for the Convention No. 105 on forced labor, we concluded that it requires further review considering the overall system of punitive measures and the current national state of south/north division. The Government will revisit this Convention in the future when conditions are set.
Second, we will proceed with legal revision and improvement of current systems required for the ratification.
For legal amendments to ratify Conventions on freedom of association (C87, C.98), my ministry will collect feedback on all issues relating to ratification, including the proposal of the public interest members announce on April 15th, to draw up a reasonable option.
As for Convention 29, the outcome of the consultations so far indicate that the military reserve system does not entirely run counter to the Convention. Therefore, we will come up with ways to improve the current system so that the purpose of the Convention can be realized.
The Government will take necessary steps so that ratification proposals for the three Conventions and legal revisions required for the freedom of association Conventions can be discussed during the regular session of the National Assembly this year. We will deliver any domestic developments to the European Union in the process.
I know that there are much concerns regarding ratification of ILO fundamental Conventions because it involves changing our law and systems that have long been established through history and because it is a hard way.
However, the Government will make its utmost efforts so that this ratification will pave the way to protect basic rights of workers. It will endeavor to make Korea’s industrial relations leap forward to a harmonious and autonomous ones.
I therefore seek cooperation of workers, employers and the general public in this effort.
Minister of Employment and Labour