REPORTS from Seoul-Gyeonggi-Incheon Migrants Trade Union, South Korea.
In June, the South Korean government began a concentrated crackdown on undocumented migrant workers, claiming this measure is necessary to ensure the successful holding of the G20 Summit in November. The government says the crackdown will go on until the end of August.
All around the country the Immigration Service, the Ministry of Labor and the police are carrying out raids and stopping people on the streets. Everyday dozens of people suffer because of this inhumane policy of arrest and deportation. As if this is not enough, the government is even forcing detained migrants to pay a fine of up to 2 million won, furthering their troubles. At some immigration offices the fine is being taken out of back wages sent to detained migrant workers without their consent. This is clearly an illegal act. First crackdown, then fines… Forcing this double burden on migrants is a severe form of oppression. There are also cases of violent treatment. For example, a Chinese migrant worker was beaten after being taken to the office of the Suwon Immigration Service.
To protest against this policy of arrest and deportation, the Migrants Trade Union began a sit-in protest at the Hyang-rin Church in the Myeongdong district on July 13. We held a ceremony to mark the beginning of the protest on July 17. Although there are not many of us participating in the sit-in, many people, including activists from overseas, came to our opening ceremony to show solidarity and support.
We wish to express our sincere gratitude to all those who participated.
July 21 (Wednesday)
This morning we participated in a press conference calling for cancellation of the layoff of irregular workers by the National Agricultural Cooperative Federation (Nonghyup), which was held in front of the Nonghyup office near Seodaemun Station. As always, Nonghyup still refuses to guarantee the rights of irregular workers. In addition, they fired the Branch Leader of the National Agricultural Cooperative Federation Branch of the Korean Clerical Workers Union for Solidarity, using the end of his contract as an excuse. We showed our solidarity for the workers’ struggle and raised our voices in protest.
In the afternoon, we participated in a mass rally held by KCTU in Jonggak. Despite the heat many workers gathered to protest democratic unionism and show their resolve to continue their struggle in the second half of the year. At this protest we handed out flyers criticizing the crackdown on undocumented migrants and calling for support for our sit-in protest.
July 23 (Friday)
The President of MTU gave a solidarity speech at the Students’ Alterglobalization Forum. We also made a call for greater attention to and support for the rights of migrant workers during a session migrant workers’ human and labor rights. In the afternoon Filipino workers visited us for counseling and advice. One of the workers was pregnant and hoping to get an extension of the time allowed for finding new work. Her problem was that the Job Center refused to grant her more time because her three-year residence period would soon end. In the evening we participated in a memorial service for Samsung Electronics workers who had died due to industrial accidents and passed out leaflets.
July 24 (Saturday)
MTU’s President gave a lecture on the situation of migrant workers. After the lecture there was a lively discussion and participants carried out street outreach and fundraising for our struggle against the crackdown.
In the evening we had a cultural event with MTU members. We gave a report about the sit-in and our future plans. There were also many performances. We learned a Filipino movement song and watched a dance performed by members of the sit-in protest. We also played fun games and generally had a good time.
July 25 (Sunday)
This was the first day of the MTU President’s hunger strike. We participated in a Rally against the Crackdown on Undocumented Migrant Workers held by Daegu Migrants Solidarity Group, KCTU Northern Gyeongsan Regional Council, Norther Gyeongsan General Union and Gyeongsan Migrant Workers Center. Despite the hot weather, many migrant workers from Nepal, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, the Philippines, China and Indonesia participated. The MTU President gave a solidarity speech in which he noted that we must strengthen solidarity among all workers who are oppressed if we are to win respect for our rights. At the end of the protest, participants threw water balloons in a symbolic act. After the protest we had a meeting with migrant workers from the Daegu area. The Daegu migrant workers resolved to carry out various actions to protest the crackdown.
July 26 (Monday)
This was the 14thday of the sit-in protest and the second day of the President’s hunger strike. During the day roughly 15 lawyers and trainees from the organization Minbyun visited our sit-in protest and expressed their solidarity. They said they would continue activities to support our struggle. In the afternoon we participated in a protest held by the National Street Vendors Conferdation and gave a solidarity speech.
Several officers from KCTU Seoul Regional Council also visited us, as did comrades from the National Alliance of Irregular Workers Unions and members form the “Do Something to Stop the Crackdown” group.
The Migrants Trade Union has been conducting a sit-in protest at Hyangrin Church in Myeongdong since July 13 to protest the South Korean government’s unjust crackdown against undocumented migrant workers.
MTU’s President began a hunger strike on July 25.
This act is an earnest call for an end to the criminalization of and repression against undocumented migrants’ rights. We ask for you solidarity and support.
Please send messages of solidarity to: firstname.lastname@example.org
* On July 30th(Fri) 7pm, there will be a candlelight vigil against the crackdown in front of the Myeong cathedral and every Friday hence.