The European Union has urged the South Korean government to ratify the International Labour Organization (ILO) core conventions included in the EU-South Korea free trade agreement (FTA).
The Ministry of Employment and Labor of South Korea and a European Commission delegation met in Seoul on Jan. 21. Previously, the European Union made a request for the meeting, saying that the South Korean government was insufficiently fulfilling Paragraph 3, Article 4 of the 13th chapter of the FTA.
The chapter stipulates that the 1998 ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work be realized in domestic laws and practices and continuous efforts be made so that the core and latest ILO conventions can be ratified. The fundamental principles and rights include the freedom of association, the right to organize, prohibition of forced labor and child labor, and non-discrimination in employment.
The chapter is applied to measures adopted or maintained by both sides and affecting the trade side of labor and environmental issues. For example, legal exceptions for less labor right protection are prohibited, examples of which include labor cost reduction and longer working hours for the purpose of trade and investment.
Michael Reiterer, EU ambassador to the Republic of Korea, mentioned that the government needs to take more measures to fulfill the promises in the FTA. Also, he expressed concerns over Korea’s insufficient efforts for core convention ratification, saying it should show at least some progress with the FTA having been signed as long as eight years ago.
In response, the ministry explained that the government has held discussions and collected opinions for the ratification and has run a committee for better labor-management relations and practices for the same purpose.
The EU delegation is planning to have meetings with the Federation of Korean Trade Unions, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, the Korea Employers Federation, and the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Jan. 22.