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Overweight? Here’s the pink slip

April 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Sangmin Lee

A 31-year-old researcher at an electronic parts company filed an appeal to the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) about his resignation due to stress from coercive weight reduction pressure from his company in July 2010.

As soon as he joined the firm last April, he was classified one of five obese employees and forced to join an exercise program. The company conducted employees’ physical checkups and required them to do mandatory daily jogging in the wake of the examination. In addition, the company’s vice-president ordered department directors to monitor slimming efforts and send updates via email and urged obese employees to submit resignations in advance in case they failed to meet the target weight loss.

The company refuted these claims, denying the fact that the company forced employees to reduce their weight, and argued that participation in those activities was voluntary and for leisure. Rather, the company insisted that it provided a wide variety of activities as part of its long-term health-benefits for employees.

However, the NHRCK determined that the applicant’s resignation was made while being under excessive pressure. Penalizing overweight employees for failing to lose weight is employment discrimination based on personal appearance. In this sense, the NHRCK ordered the company to pay five million KRW (4,480 USD) in compensation and recommended measures to prevent any similar recurrence.

No ‘Human Rights’ at the NHRCK

April 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Tae-young Kim, an investigator of NHRCK stages a relay of one-man protests to remonstrate the unfair dismissal.

Bichi Lee

“The duty of the National Human Rights Commision of Korea (NHRCK) is to make society a better place in which people can live like a decent human being. But NHRCK does not consider people important. They unfairly dismissed and suggest ‘there’s no labor union’. Please, reconsider it before it is too late”

Tae-young Kim, an investigator of the NHRCK carried signs in front of the building of the NHRCK in the Jung-gu district of Seoul on February 14, 2011. Kim is a public certified labor attorney who handled the paperwork on the Right to Work. On February 8th Kim submitted a written resignation in protest of the unfair dismissal of In-young Kang, an investigator at the NHRCK. In-young Kang was the second manager of the Anti-Discrimination Division and handled documents on sexual discrimination.

Kim stated, “I can’t just sit back and watch my colleague be wrongfully fired. As a person that is in charge of labor, I advised NHRCK to withdraw the unfair dismissal of temporary positions.  Regardless, my coworker was wrongfully fired. Byung-Chul Hyun, chairperson of NHRCK should withdraw it.”

Beginning with Kim, commissioners of the NHRCK started to stage a series of one-person protests to demonstrate against the unfair dismissal by Chairman Byoung-Chul Hyun and Secretary General Sim-Gil Son.

It was the first time in the history of the NHRCK that its Commissioners took to the streets in protest. Apart from the labor union, the Commissioners will be continuing the relay of the one-person protests for three weeks during lunch breaks.

HRM News Brief March 26-28, 2011

March 30, 2011 Leave a comment

 

HRM News Briefs                                                                                March 26, 2011


 

Police Seek Arrest Warrant of University Group’s President

The Korean National Police Agency is currently investigating a university student academic group called Capitalism Research Society and has requested an arrest warrant for the group’s first president. The president is a 37-year-old individual and is being pursued by the National Police on charges of violating Korea’s National Security Act proscriptions against praising North Korea. Authorities claim that the university group is encouraging North Korea by forming a group working in the interest of ‘the enemy.’ Civic groups protested what they called the “forming of an atmosphere of a police state.”

 

 

Father and Son Walk to Raise Disabilities Awareness

Lee Jin-seob, 47, and his 19-year old-son, Gyun-do, set out on a 40-day, 600-kilometer (372-mile) walk from Busan to Seoul. Lee heads a social welfare counseling center in Gijang County, Busan. His son, Gyun-do is autistic. He and his son are walking 15 kilometers per day to complete their goal. During the journey, Lee said a rope keeps him and his teenage son together because “Gyun-do is 180 centimeters tall and weighs 100 kilograms (220 pounds. There’s no way I can control him if he becomes overly excited. He could jump into the middle of the road or run away.” Lee quit his job 10 years ago to look after his son. His wife runs a small coffee shop in Busan.  Lee earned a diploma in social welfare from the Catholic University of Busan last year and opened the counseling center for parents with disabled children.

 

March 27, 2011
 

Reports Indicate Korean Youths Lack Social Skills

A state research institute conducting an international youth survey showed that Koreans came last in terms of social skills. According to the National Youth Policy Institute, Korean teens on average ranked the lowest among 36 countries in terms of relationship orientation and social cooperation. The results were based on the analysis of a survey taken by 14,600 second grade middle school students all over the world. Results indicated that Koreans scored last in both relationship orientation and social cooperation in regards to issues regarding school and community group participation, immigrants, and institutions, among others.

 

Labor Union Battles with Kumho Tires

Kumho Tires, Korea’s second largest tire maker, is continuing their battle with their labor union, causing Kumho Tires to close down plants for longer than expected. Union workers initially staged a one-day strike as a warning, calling for the management to initiate talks on key issues such as pay raises and the improvement of working conditions. The management responded by shutting down its two plants in Gwangju, Gyeonggi Province, saying the collective move is illegal. The following day, the company planned to resume operations by allowing the workers who submitted a written confirmation not to join in further strikes to return to the factories. However, the union denounced the move, claiming the firm is forcing unionists not to take part in the strikes and asked all the union members not to return to work.

March 28, 2011

 

UN Report Indicates One Forth of North Korea is Starving

The United Nations World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization delivered a sobering verdict on the food situation in North Korea, saying 6 million people in the impoverished country—a fourth of the population—are in dire need of food. The two agencies’ report which came a month after UN officials conducted on-site observations in several provinces, emphasized that children, women, and the elderly are at risk after severe summer flooding in the northern areas of North Korea and a harsh winter wiped out many of the North’s crops. The two organizations called for 470,000 tons of food aid for North Korean.

 

Activists to Quietly Float Leaflets to North Korea

Activists have decided to quietly float propaganda leaflets to North Korea without announcing their plans after a series of recent run-ins with residents near the border who worried about reprisals from the North. The head a coalition of activist groups stated that the time and location would remain under wrap and that better equipment would allow the leaflets attached to helium balloons to can now be launched by one or two people, reducing the risk of protests from locals or shots being fired from North Korea. However, members of Fighters for Free North Korea said his group will launch at least some balloons openly in a show of defiance against North Korea’s threat last week to fire shots at launch sites. Last week, the group was forced to withdraw their loudspeakers which were to blast propaganda across the demilitarized zone after North Korea threatened to shoot at them.

Categories: Children, Disability, Labour

Suggestion for Labor Union Calls for the Pink Slip

March 2, 2011 Leave a comment

Seung Soo Jo, who is the representative of New Progressive Party, is holding a sign saying that ‘Although labor union creation is legally assured, Samsung chooses absolute dismissal? Is this attitude as No.1 Company Samsung? Mr. Park has to be reinstated right now!’ (Picture source : Yonhapnews)

Se Hwa Hong, who is a journalist at Hankyoreh newspaper, is holding a picket saying that ‘Dismissal is murder. Samsung workers die of leukemia and worker repression without labor union. Samsung employees, let’s unite and create democratic labor union!’(Picture source : Byung Seung Song, Sisa Seoul)

Mr. Park is shedding tears revealing his feeling at a press conference of denunciation of Samsung’s labor union creation suppression and dismissal invalidity confirmation lawsuit on December 27th, 2010. In the back, there is a picture of him suspended from working. There isn’t even a computer on the desk.(Picture Source : Sungho Yoo, Ohmynews)

By:  Yuri Yi

 

Jong Tae Park, who worked at Samsung for 23 years since he was 20, was fired on November 26, 2010. The fundamental reason for his employment termination was his suggestion to make a labor union. However, Samsung is denying such accusations.

The incident began with Park’s passionate move in ‘The Council of One family’[1] which is a substitution of a labor union at Samsung. He was elected as a council member in 2008. Since then, he worked hard to speak up for his colleagues regarding problems such as disadvantages in performance rating.[2]

His passionate service in the organization attracted attention from the authorities who began to monitor him. Whenever he wanted to go to the toilet, he had to advise his supervisor. When he used the computer in the common area during break, a supervisor came to observe what he wrote on the internet website.

Furthermore, they kicked Park out of The Council of One Family and attempted to transfer him to another branch in other countries such as Brazil and Russia. He refused to go abroad for health reasons. Consequently, he had his pay curtailed for six months and was suspended from the company for an indefinite period. His desk was moved to an isolated area so that he could not contact his coworkers. In addition, he had nothing to work on and was blocked from the company’s internal email system. He had to sit alone all day doing nothing; Samsung wanted him to resign.

Park developed depression from this outcast experience, resulting in psychotherapy hospitalization. Currently, he is taking 31 pills per day to alleviate disk, depression, anxiety syndrome, gastritis, and insomnia.

After three months of waiting for work, he uploaded a text demanding the creation of a labor union but it was deleted within 15 minutes. He wrote it again, however, it disappeared in an instant. In the end, Samsung dismissed him on the basis of revealing company secrets, spreading false information, and disorderly conduct.

Even though it has been two months since he was fired, Park is still in the front of Samsung Suwon branch staging a one-man demonstration. Park is having financial difficulties in supporting his two daughters who are attending elementary and middle school; however, he refuses to give up fighting against Samsung stating, ‘I would like to show that justice wins, not winning is justice.’

At first, he was alone, but not anymore. Many people, including employees at Samsung, support him. Se Hwa Hong, who is a journalist working at Hankyoreh newspaper,[3] protested with Park on January 12th. Mr. Hong said that, ‘it’s unbelievable that management without a labor union still exists. I can’t even imagine it happening in Europe. Korean Enterprises are insisting that they are global companies, but their labor-management relations are similar to that of a feudal society in the middle ages.’

Seung Soo Jo, who is a representative of the New Progressive Party, was with Mr. Park on January 24th. Mr. Jo said that ‘we should focus on this problem from the point of view of workers’ basic right repression which is caused by a management without a labor union at Samsung. This is not only a problem of individuals, but also a problem of structure.’

Banollim, which is a group that supports health and human rights of workers at semiconductor factories, joins every Friday to cheer for Park. After several semiconductor employees who worked at Samsung passed away, the members of Banollim attempted to disclose Samsung’s lack of justice.[4] Jong-ran Lee, a labor attorney at Banollim, said that, ‘not only the dismissal of Mr. Park but also the leukemia problem of Samsung semiconductor workers and the suicide problem of Samsung LCD factory workers were caused by the absence of the basis of a humane working environment. If Samsung allows the creation of a labor union, that would allow Samsung to have the fundamentals for fair communication, to prepare safety measures of chemicals use, communication is an important medium.’ Lawyers for a Democratic Society also helped Park win the suit against Samsung to let him go back to his workplace.

Samsung is the number one company in Korea. However, Samsung has not yet joined the UN Global Compact. Beginning this July, multiple labor unions are legally allowed by the labor union law. As managements without labor unions became a target of criticism, attention is now focusing on the direction of Samsung’s attitude.

As Kun hee Lee, the chairperson of Samsung Electronics, state that, ‘society and citizens have to be honest’ right after his amnesty, Samsung would appear as to focus its business ideology on honesty. Nevertheless, as a global company, will Samsung be able to survive in the global market ignoring human rights?

 


[1]. It is equivalent to a joint labor-management council in which labor and management negotiate about concerned issues. Its name is taken from a motto of Samsung ‘an another family’

[2] For example, female employee who has child can’t avoid negative consequence in human resources. It’s because minimum 5% of employees has to get low score in the assessment of performance, and mothers naturally becomes targets unless something unexpected happens. In order to escape from disadvantageous situation, even pregnant women keep their status secret and have miscarriages in the end of excessive labor.

[3] Hankyoreh is a representative progressive newspaper in Korea.

[4] Recently, Gyo Chul Joo, who worked at Samsung semiconductor factory as a Diffusion Part Engineer for 23 years, died of leukemia on November 14th, 2010. He couldn’t get compensation for Industrial disaster. He was nineth employee who died of disease at Samsung. Joo Hyun Kim, who worked at Samsung LCD factory as a Facility Engineer for a year, committed suicide on January 11th, 2011. He suffered from severe dermatitis caused by chemicals in the factory and excessive labor for 14-15 hours a day. It happened a week after a female employee who worked at the same branch with Mr. Kim killed herself on January 3rd.

 



”I was fired” Jong Tae Park, who was fired from Samsung Electronics, is staging one-man protest in front of Samsung Suwon branch.(Picture source : Jaemin Kim, Ohmynews)

 

 

News Brief January 21-24, 2011

January 25, 2011 Leave a comment

News Briefs                                                                                                                                                   January 21, 2011

Pastor Gets 9 Years for Multiple Child Rape 

65 year old pastor Kang was sentenced to 9 years for raping an 11 year old girl and sexually molesting three other under-aged members of his congregation. Kang was also accused of taking sexual pictures of the victims and beating and threatening them. The court ruling stated that, “the defendant assaulted five teenagers by coercing them with his religious authority… He left serious, untreatable scars on the young victims.”

Labor Activists Continue Sit-ins through Subzero Temperatures 

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) is protesting against Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction (HHIC) in an attempt to force HHIC to end layoffs. Kim Jin-suk, a member of the direction committee of KCTU’s Busan office, is sitting-in a 35-meter high vessel crane at HHIC’s Yeongdo shipyard in subzero temperatures. HHIC received a court ruling to remove Kim from the site; however, Kim refused to end the protest. Friday marked Kim’s 15th sit-in day.

Government to Provide IT Training for Multicultural Families 

The Ministry of Public Administration and Security and the National Information Society Agency plans to provide IT training for 2,300 marriage migrants and 330 multicultural families. This new program is designed to aid migrants and multicultural families in adjusting to life in Korea by giving them the tools and opportunities needed.

NHRCK Calls for Human Rights in North Korea 

Korea’s National Human Rights Commission wishes to introduce legislation on North Korean human rights and enact an independent archive to investigate, collect, and record human rights violations in North Korea. A bill on situating and contextualizing human rights in North Korea remains pending in the National Assembly; however, human rights activists insist the bill is far too moderate to insight any actual changes in North Korea.

January 22, 2011

Government Rejects NHRCK’s Labor Recommendations 

The Ministry of Employment and Labor (MoEL) recently rejected the National Human Rights Commission of Korea’s (NHRCK) recommendation to reduce excessive governmental interference in labor union establishment procedures and the criteria on valid union members. In rejecting NHRCK’s recommendations, the government plans to continue to only permitting labor union activities within a stringent and restrictive framework. President Lee’s administration has also been accused of abusing current labor unions in using the system to suppress unions the administration does not agree with. The Seoul Administrative Court ruled in line with NHRCK’s recommendations; however, the MoEL remains adherent to its intolerant approach.

Former ‘Comfort Woman’s’ Last Wish 

Lee Ok-sun, 84, was 15 when she was kidnapped by the Japanese military and drafted to become a sex slave during Japan’s invasion of the Korean peninsula. IN 1996, Lee decided to publicize her experiences and began traveling the world, giving lectures on the sufferings of the ‘comfort women.’ Now, like most other former ‘comfort women,’ Lee is ailing; her heart and kidneys are failing, and her vision and hearing are impaired from the beatings she endured during her time as a ‘comfort woman.’ Lee’s last wish before she dies is to receive an apology from Japan to her and all other surviving former ‘comfort women.’

January 23, 2011

Lonely ‘Mart Kids’ Deprived of Proper Care 

Children playing in supermarkets during winter vacation were found to be lacking in proper parental care. Children staying at supermarkets from morning to late evening tended to avoid social contact and experts report that such children are shown little affection or care at home. Supermarket employees worry over the children’s safety as there are no adults with the children; employees also fear that the children may be more vulnerable to crime as they remain unprotected throughout the day and evenings.

North Korean Defector Turned Freedom Fighter through Art 

Song Byeok, 42, defected in 2002 and now uses his artwork to depict difficulties of life in North Korea. Song stated that he was now free of the ‘brainwashing’ he experienced in North Korea. “For a long time, I honestly believed Kim was a great leader and that my country was better off than others,” Song said. Song’s art often caricaturizes North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il and his regime; Song stated that he now wants “to devote [his] art to letting the world know that everyone, including North Koreans, deserves to be free.”

January 24, 2011

Budget Cuts for Seoul’s Cultural Programs 

The Seoul Metropolitan Government stated that foreigners wishing to participate in Seoul’s cultural programs will have to wait as Seoul’s cultural programs receive budget cuts. The programs will be available for 1,740 foreigners through 30 events this year, down from 2,591 available slots for 37 events last year. This year, the government will combine several programs together in order to accommodate budget cuts.

Ministry of Employment and Labor Rejects Recommendation from NHRCK 

The Ministry of Employment and Labor has recently released a statement rejecting the recommendation submitted by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) to include the unemployed and recently laid off employees in the National Labor Union and Relations Law. The Ministry replied stating that including this group the law would lose its exclusiveness in protecting those working.

Gwangju to Build Democratic and Peace Human Rights Center on Former Prison Site 

On the 21st of January, over 100 members of various civic organizations met in Gwangju, city in Southwest of Seoul, to present the “Human Rights City Gwangju Proposal”. The proposal states the various programs it plans to carry out to make Gwangju the main hub representing Human Rights in South Korea. As the first steps it was proposed to build a Democratic and Peace Human Rights Center on a former prison site in Gwangju.

NHRCK Propose Letter Exchange Program Between Separated Families  

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) released a statement on the 21st that they plan to promote a letter exchange program between separated families in South and North Korea. It was indicated that the letter exchange program goes along the lines of their “Roadmap for the Improvement of North Korean Human Rights” released earlier this year.