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2014-10-07 18:01
By Park Jin-hai


Ending a week-long investigation, visiting U.N. special rapporteur Mutuma Ruteere said, "There are serious problems regarding the fishing industry that still need to be addressed.”

But the government reacted as if it were nothing unusual.

The U.N. delegation investigated reported cases of abuse facing foreign fishermen employed by Korean fishing firms. The move followed lawsuits filed by some 200 Indonesian sailors in New Zealand against two Korean companies _ Dong Won Fisheries and Dong Nam.

They are demanding about $14 million in back pay.

The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries Ministry said the suit was an extension of a 2011 case and blamed New Zealand “brokers” for luring the Indonesians into taking action.

That much publicized case was about some 30 Indonesian seamen fleeing the Korean flagged Sajo Oyang 75 vessel off New Zealand claiming sexual harassment, physical and verbal abuse.

“No politicians are paying attention because it isn’t directly linked to more votes in elections,” said an activist working in Busan.  

“They become victims of a double contract. It is frequent that the paper shows that foreign seamen are receiving 2 million won in monthly payments. But in reality, they receive only 500,000 won,” said the activist.

The ministry has left foreign seamen’s minimum wage to be set by annual collective bargaining between vessel owners and the labor union, which only accepts Koreans as its members.

The fisheries ministry, after the 2011 New Zealand case, raised the wages to International Labor Organization standards in 2013. Following protests by the union and fishing firms, however, the government has reverted back to the previous bargaining system.

An Indonesian diplomat said that because of notoriety about severe human right abuses and nonpayment of wages, Korean fishing vessels are shunned by Southeast Asian sailors. He said that the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperative, Korea's fishing industry lobby that also serves to import foreign manpower, is now virtually "begging source countries to send more sailors." 

The ministry should have more responsibility and work for the human rights of foreign seamen, who make up 30 percent of the crews on boats and more than 70 percent of the crews on Korean trawlers in international waters.

 

 

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