ILO conventions are universal rights: ILO Director

By Kim Bo-gyung
  • Published : Jun 14, 2019 - 15:36
  • Updated : Jun 14, 2019 - 15:52

Lee Sang-heon, the director of the International Labor Organization’s employment policy department, on Friday stressed that core ILO conventions are minimal universal rights of laborers and took a negative stance on allowing substitute laborers in case of a strike.

“Key ILO conventions are minimal universal rights that should be granted all workers regardless of where they are. … They should not be subject to negotiation or conditions,” Lee said. He is the first South Korean to serve as a director of the UN agency.

Amid pressure from the EU for South Korea to ratify four of the eight essential ILO conventions, the business community has requested companies be allowed to use substitute workers during strikes as a precondition for passing the conventions. 

International Labor Organization's Employment Policy Department Director Lee Sang-heon (Yonhap)

The business community argues that strengthened right to assemble would break the labor-management balance and advantage labor unions.

“The key conventions were made to simplify matters and recognize them as rights. It is not appropriate to do this and that in order to ratify key conventions,” Lee said.

South Korea has yet to adopt ILO conventions on freedom of association, protection of the right to organize, abolition of forced labor and the right to collective bargaining.

Touching on the two conventions -- No. 87, the freedom of association and protection of the right to organize, and No. 98, the right to organize and collective bargaining -- Lee said they are imperative rights of workers.

The two will pave the way for minorities or irregular workers to assemble and organize in different forms, Lee explained.

Korea joined the ILO in December 1991, but has not adopted four of its eight key conventions applied unconditionally to laborers.

There are 189 conventions in total, out of which Korea has signed 29.

By Kim Bo-gyung (