2003: Arbeit mit Migranten

The Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea  PROK


Mission with Migrant Workers

Rev. CHAE Hae-Won

Korea's dependence on the labour of migrant workers from other countries is a long-standing and complex justice issue in this society. Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers, who contribute so significantly to the Korean economy with so little recognition, suffer the pain not only of separation from their distant families but also of discrimination, marginalization, difficult and dangerous jobs and working conditions, and serious violation of their rights. In June 2003, among a total of 400,000 migrant workers, as many as 300,000 held illegal status. The PROK has about ten migrant worker centres through which it serves the migrant workers through many and varied ministries and actively, persistently lobbies the government for just laws and policies in this field. In this the PROK works closely with other church denominations and civic organizations. PROK ministers Rev. Hae-Sung Kim and Rev. Eui-Pal Choi are leading figures in this struggle for justice, widely recognized and highly respected for their thorough and specialized knowledge in this field. Many other PROK ministers and lay people, as well as PROK ecumenical co-workers Rev. Joerg Baruth and Rev. Jessie Albestor from Germany and the Philippines respectively, give knowledgeable, compassionate, even sacrificial service in this vital ministry. Rev. Joerg Baruth offers his perspective and experience in this field.

In its present attempt to reduce the number of illegal-status migrant workers, the government announced a final deadline of November 15, 2003 by which undocumented workers must "voluntarily" report to authorities, after which the authorities would carry out a massive crackdown of arrest and forcible deportation of those remaining. The reporting deadlines and subsequent enforced conditions differed according to the length of time the worker had already been in the country and are briefly included in Rev. Joerg Baruth's article. From among the original total of 300,000 undocumented workers, 180,000 had reported to authorities by the November 15 deadline, the remaining 120,000 going into hiding from November 16th. As this newsletter goes to press, about 2,450 have been arrested and some 1,800 deported since November 16th, with about 700 being held in detention.

As the November 15th deadline approached, Rev. Han-Sung Kim and fellow activists approached the churches with a request to give sanctuary to the workers, from which the workers could in turn actively protest against forcible deportation and demand justice. Most agreed, and currently about 850 workers are carrying out a continuous, round-the-clock live-in protest from several churches and church centres in Seoul and other cities. In Seoul these locations include the 15th and 14th floors of the Korea Ecumenical Building housing, respectively, the offices of the PROK General Assembly and the Christian Council of Korea (CCK;; not to be confused with the NCCK); the PCK Centennial Building; Korean Methodist headquarters; Myoungdong Catholic Cathedral; and the Anglican Cathedral. Rev. Hae-Sung Kim and other leaders, together with staff and volunteers of the migrant worker centres, are sharing the 24-hour continuous live-in vigil with these protesting workers, at the same time as leading them in outdoor protests and constantly and specifically pressuring the government for changes on the side of justice.

A highly complex part of this whole issue is the case of overseas ethnic Koreans particularly from China and the former Soviet Union, who are covered differently and even more discriminately under existing labour laws. Among their calls for justice, the PROK and others are demanding revision of the Law on Overseas Koreans. The migrant workers protesting from the sanctuary of the Korea Ecumenical Building and the PCK Centennial Building are specifically Korean-Chinese as Rev. Hae-Sung Kim and others focus intently on this justice issue within the larger protest.

Those calling for justice are urging the government to stop the forcible deportation of undocumented workers; legalize all undocumented workers; amend the Law on Overseas Ethnic Koreans; implement the Work Permit System and abolish the Industrial Trainee System.

Aus: Erklärung der 88. Synode der PROK 2003

"We Oppose the Forcible Deportation..."

We Oppose the Forcible Deportation of Long-Staying Migrant Workers and Urge the Amendment of the Law on Overseas Koreans

"Do not mistreat sojourners who are living with you in your land. Treat them as you would those of your own land, and love them as you love yourselves. Remember that you were once sojourners in the land of Egypt. . am the Lord your God." (Leviticus 19:33-34)

Through our past history the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea (PROK), following God's word, has walked the way of the cross in working to achieve democracy and to build a just society in our land. We confess before God that we have made every effort to build a society where none are discriminated against or excluded.

We stand in sympathy with the migrant workers and overseas Koreans who are appealing to us in their extreme difficulty. They are our neighbours who, mutely working so diligently in their industrial workplaces, have played a huge role in the recovery of the Korean economy since the IMF bailout, and to whom we are grateful. At present, however, the government is causing disorder and chaos in our society through its unprincipled and short-sighted policies. The present government's policies regarding migrant workers are not even grounded in common sense and, furthermore, are giving rise to violations of human rights. These reckless and imprudent policies are throwing the migrant workers and of course the Korean economy as well, into serious crisis.

The present government's decision to forcibly deport all long-staying illegal migrant workers has resulted in increasing numbers of migrant workers being driven out without receiving their withheld salaries and separation allowances. At the same time, small and medium-sized businesses are facing extreme difficulties because so many experienced illegal migrant workers are hiding in fear of deportation. Driven to the brink of forcible deportation, despairing with this dead-end reality, some migrant workers have resorted even to suicide.

Further, the Law on Overseas Koreans which leaves room for discrimination against our brothers and sisters of our own blood-line from China and the former Soviet Union has been ruled by the Constitutional Court to be unconstitutional, and therefore must be revised. Despite this, however, the government continues to apply the law with only minor modifications to the enforcement ordinances, thus, in effect, justifying the discrimination. Because of the government's inaction, the danger is very real that the proposed revisions will be automatically invalidated after the end-of-December deadline. The overseas Koreans are enraged by the government's indifferent attitude and threats of forcible deportation. They are the descendants of Koreans who had to leave the Korean peninsula during the period of Japanese colonialism to escape the compulsory draft and to conduct the independence movement outside Korea. However, our government, which claims to have inherited the spirit of the March 1st Independence Movement and the Government-in-Exile based in Shanghai, is showing an extremely disappointing attitude toward these compatriots. We are very angry that the government, far from cleansing the stain of the shameful aspects of our history, does not recognize them as members of our nation.1

The Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea, grounded in God's Word revealed in the Scriptures, judges the government's policies on migrant workers and overseas Koreans to be oriented in the wrong direction and declares our position as follows.

1. Regarding the policy on migrant workers, we call on the government to:

1) establish far-sighted and impartial policies on migrant workers;

2) by amending the law relating to the Work Permit System, stop the crackdown on undocumented migrant workers and grant them amnesty so that they may return to their workplaces;

3) guarantee the re-entry of [expelled] experienced migrant workers under the newly enacted Work Permit System so that they who have suffered so deeply so far from their homes may, after visiting their families, return to their workplaces;

4) do not allow employers of migrant workers to trample on their human rights by withholding their salaries and exploiting them.

2. Regarding revision of the Law on Overseas Koreans, we call on the government to:

1) abolish Article 2-2 of the Law on Overseas Koreans which has already been judged unconstitutional and which leaves room for discrimination against overseas Koreans; stop the crackdown and forcible deportation immediately, and guarantee the freedom of movement of overseas Koreans;

2) recognize our compatriots from China and the former Soviet Union as fellow members of our nation and make every effort to ensure that they are treated as respected human beings in their own motherland.

The Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea prays for the migrant workers and overseas Koreans who must be allowed to live together with us as our neighbours, and urges the government to take responsibility for and exert its utmost effort to solve the present situation.

The Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea November 30, 2003

1 [Editor's note] By "shameful aspects of our history" the PROK is referring to the fact that during the period of Japanese colonization some Koreans collaborated with the Japanese; the PROK is protesting that, rather than honouring those who opposed the Japanese even to the point of leaving the country to fight from the outside, the government is not recognizing their descendants as members of our country.

Weitere Texte zu Arbeitsmigranten

Mission unter Arbeitsmigranten - für die PROK und für viele ihrer Gemeinden eine Selbstverständlichkeit.
Schon in den 80er Jahren öffnete die Jumin-Gemeinde in Songnam vor Seoul (Pfr. LEE Hae-Hak) ihr Gebäude für Arbeitsmigranten. Damals entdeckte Pfr. KIM Hae-Sung diese Aufgabe als seine Lebensaufgabe. (vgl. CHAE Hae-Won, Mission with Migrant Workers)

  • Mission with Migrant Workers, 2003. (pdf-Datei)
  • Texte von Jörg Baruth als pdf-Dateien hier
  • The Situation of Migrant Workers in Korea (J.Baruth) hier
  • Eine Erklärung der 88. Synode der PROK 2003: We oppose the Forcible Deportation of Long-Staying Migrant Workers and Urge the Amendment of the Law on Overseas Koreans
  • Abschaffung des Nationalen Sicherheitsgesetzes NSL
  • Erklärung vom 7.12.2004
    Hier. Als pdf-Datei.


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