Key ILO conventions on forced labor, freedom of association take effect: labor ministry

SEOUL-- Three key International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions that prohibit forced labor and guarantee freedom of association went into effect Wednesday, a year after South Korea completed the ratification process, the labor ministry said.

The conventions -- No. 29 on forced labor, No. 87 on freedom of association and protection of the right to organize and No. 98 on the right to organize and collective bargaining -- will now have the same legal status as domestic laws, according to the ministry.

The implementation is not expected to bring a huge change as the country amended related labor laws, including the Trade Union and Labor Relations Adjustment Act and the Act on the Establishment and Operation of Teachers' Unions, in line with the conventions in July of last year.

But observers say confusion could arise over differences between domestic laws and the ILO conventions.

The revised labor laws still do not fully meet the international labor standard, such as prohibition on the creation of labor unions of self-employed people or freelancers, defined as "non-workers" by law, a report from the Judicial Policy Research Institute showed.

The ILO convention on the freedom of association stipulates workers, without any distinction, have the right to establish labor unions.

On Tuesday, the Korea Enterprises Federation (KEF) said there are concerns that problems between labor and management may become a global issue because of the ILO conventions and negatively affect South Korean companies while increasing the possibility of trade disputes.

On the other hand, labor activists called for further amendment of labor laws to reduce the disparity with the conventions.

The law, system and customs should be changed to guarantee the ILO conventions and labor rights stipulated in the Constitution as there are still many workers whose rights are unprotected, the country's two major umbrella labor unions -- the Federation of Korean Trade Unions and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions -- said in a joint statement released on Wednesday.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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