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Myanmar migrant workers in South Korea stage protest demanding equal working rights

Coconuts Yangon, South Korea, 24th July 2017 - Over the weekend, a group of migrant workers, including Myanmar nationals, staged a protest in the South Korean city of Incheon to demand fairer working rights.

The 70-strong group gathered in front of the Bupyeong subway station on Sunday with a list of five demands for the Ministry of Labor and Employment. Their requests included halting the forceful arrest and deportation of workers who overstay their visas, as well as the creation of a work permit system recognizing them as legal employees and ensuring that they have the full set of rights and benefits as local workers.

In particular, the workers alleged that they were not receiving nearly the same amount of money as local employees for the same jobs. Zaw Min, a Myanmar construction worker, told The Voice: “In the manufacturing plants, I can’t say [what the discrepancy is] between our salaries and the locals’ salaries. For construction workers, the difference is twofold.”

The group also called on the government to force employers to stop overcharging rent. Myo Lin, who has been a manufacturing worker for four years, explained, “Our contract stated that we’d have to pay rent, but it didn’t state a specific amount. Now, the factory owners are asking for as much as they want.”

In 2010, the South Korean and Myanmar governments signed a memorandum of understanding that helped Myanmar workers place jobs in South Korea, given that they pass a language proficiency test.

Earlier this year, South Korea announced that the country’s minimum wage would be raised by 16.4% next year. However, an official from a Korean migrant workers’ union told The Korea Herald that he fears that for migrant workers, the new wages “won’t be strictly enforced in reality.”


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