[Excerpt] This report examines the labor laws and practices of the Republic of Korea (ROK). It responds to the requirement of the Trade Act of 2002 that the President provide a “meaningful labor rights report” concerning each country with which a free trade agreement is under consideration. It focuses on those labor rights identified as internationally recognized labor rights in Chapter 19 of the proposed United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS).
The report finds that the ROK’s current laws and practices related to internationally recognized labor rights are largely consistent with relevant international standards. The Constitution of the ROK prohibits compulsory labor; grants all citizens the freedom of occupation; guarantees freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively (with certain exceptions); guarantees the right of citizens to work and to an enforceable system of minimum wages; stipulates that standards for conditions of work are to be promulgated by law to guarantee human dignity; accords special protection to working women and children; and prohibits discrimination in economic life on account of sex, religion, and social status. The laws governing individual labor rights, of which the Labor Standards Act is the most comprehensive, provide minimum standards for conditions of employment, including wages and hours of work; ban discrimination on certain articulated prohibited grounds; prohibit forced labor and unjustified dismissals; provide protections for minors and women; provide for labor inspections and penal sanctions in certain cases of egregious violations; address occupational safety and health and hazard and accident prevention; establish rules for workers’ compensation; and govern employment conditions for temporary, fixed-term, and part-time workers. The laws governing labor-management relations, of which the TULRAA is the most comprehensive, regulate the establishment, affiliation, and dissolution of trade unions; establish the scope and conditions for collective bargaining and collective agreements; regulate industrial action, unfair labor practices, and dismissals; specify procedures for dispute settlement and resolution; establish a national-level tripartite commission to consult on labor-management relations; mandate labor-management councils in workplaces; and establish tripartite labor commissions to mediate and adjudicate disputes. The ROK also has a set of well-developed institutions to implement and enforce these laws.