The KCTU sends you warm greetings of solidarity from South Korea.


We are writing to ask for your urgent intervention in a situation of labor repression against the Seoul-Gyeonggi-Incheon Migrants Trade Union (MTU). As you know, MTU was established for and by migrant workers in South Korea in 2005. MTU has received considerable attention from the ILO and the international labor community due to the government’s continued refusal to recognize it as a registered union and other violations of freedom of association rights, including the arrest and deportation of several MTU officers. 


Recently, MTU’s current president, Michel Catuira, has also come under pressure from the South Korean government. President Catuira is a documented Filipino migrant worker, who is employed under the Employment Permit System (EPS). Under the EPS, President Catuira must maintain an employment relationship with a registered employer in the manufacturing sector as a condition of legal residence in South Korea.


While the President Catuira has fulfilled this requirement and is employed by a company in the Seongsu district of Seoul, the government has raised questions about his employment status as a means to stop his lawful union activities. When MTU carried out a sit-in protest in the summer of 2010 in protest against the crackdown on undocumented migrant workers, the Ministry of Employment and Labor’s East Seoul Job Center called him and his employer to the center for an interview, questioning the validity of their employment relationship.

Finding no legal problem, the center continued to pressure President Catuira through his employer by sending a notice to the employer telling him to file to have President Catuira transferred to a different company.


This pressure has increased recently in the wake of activities MTU carried out to protest the death of a Vietnamese migrant worker who fell from a second story window in the course of an immigration raid. On November 5, MTU and other organizations held a press conference concerning the incident in front of the Seoul Immigration Office, after which participants made a protest visit to the immigration authorities to ask them to take responsibility for the death. President Catuira participated in these activities. Shorty after, on November 23, President Catuira received a summons from the Immigration Service telling him he must appear before the Immigration Service’s investigation team before December 3 to be investigated based on “suspicion of violations of the Immigration Control Law in the course of applying for a workplace transfer and with relation to actual performance of work duties at present.” Inquiry by a lawyer working with MTU has revealed that the investigation team is also planning to raise suspicions that President Catuira is conducting political activities of a nature prohibited under immigration law. If the investigation team finds against President Catuira, he will lose his visa and become immediately deportable.


The Immigration Service’s investigation of President Catuira is clearly aimed at intimidating him in an effort to undermine MTU’s legitimate union activities. This is a form of repression of the same nature as similar acts against MTU officers in the past. This pattern, in which the South Korean government uses the vulnerable immigration status of migrant workers to prevent them from unionization, has been criticized by the ILO and the international labor community. At its 306th session in November 2009, the ILO Governing body adopted the following recommendations made by the Committee on Freedom of Association:


§  The Committee requests the Government to undertake an in-depth review of the situation concerning the status of migrant workers, along with the social partners concerned, so as to fully ensure and safeguard the fundamental rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining of all migrant workers, whether in a regular or irregular situation and in conformity with freedom of association principles…


§  The Committee… requests the Government to refrain from taking measures which involve a risk of serious interference with trade union activities, such as the arrest and deportation of trade union leaders for reasons related to their election to trade union office and while legal appeals are pending.


With regards to the South Korean government’s continued rejection of MTU’s legal union status, the Governing Body adopted the following recommendation made by the Committee:


§  The Committee requests the Government to proceed with the MTUs prompt registration and to ensure that national decisions concerning the MTU’s application for registration recognize the principle that all workers may be guaranteed the full exercise of their freedom of association rights…


These recommendations were reaffirmed in the Committee’s most recent report, adopted at the ILO Governing Body’s 308th Session in November 2010.


As you know, the ITUC has taken an active role in supporting MTU and the right to freedom of association of migrant workers in South Korea, submitting an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case concerning MTU’s union status and sending urgent appeals to the South Korean government when MTU officers have been subject to arrest and deportation. Unfortunately, it has not been possible to stop deportation of arrested officer in the past. We hope, however, that a letter of protest sent by the ITUC to the relevant authorities will help to stop the pressure on President Catuira before it escalates to the point of cancellation of his visa, his arrest and/or his deportation.


We therefore ask you to please send a letter expressing your concern about the investigation being carried out against President Catuira to the South Korean Ministry of Employment and Labor, Ministry of Justice and Immigration Service.


Ministry of Employment and Labor

Government Complex 1-dong

Gwanmun-ro 88 (Jungang-dong 1),

Gwacheon-si, Gyeonggi-do, 427-718

Republic of Korea

Fax: 82-2-3679-6581


Ministry of Justice

Building #5, Gwacheon Government Complex,

Jungang-dong 1, Gwacheon-si, Gyeonggi-do


Republic of Korea

Fax: 82-2-5003-7113


Immigration Service, Republic of Korea

Residence Status Investigation Department

1-19 Gwacheon NC Department Store 8th Floor

Biryang-dong, Gwacheon-si, Gyeonggi-do, 427-800

Republic of Korea

Fax: 82-2-500-90097


If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Mikyung Ryu at, 82-10-9279-7106






Update Concerning the case of Michel Catuira (Paraluman Michelynne Catuira,

President, Seoul-Gyeonggi-Incheon Migrants Trade Union)


7 December 2010


It has come to the attention of the Seoul-Gyeongi-Incheon Migrants Trade Union (MTU) that the East Seoul Branch of the Seoul Regional Ministry of Employment and Labor (hereafter East Seoul Branch) has cancelled the employment permit held by Park Gyu-sang, MTU President Michel Catuira’s employer. We understand this action to be aimed at destabilizing President Catuira’s employment relationship, on which his visa is based, thus making him deportable.


Today, 7 December 2010, MTU received by fax a memorandum from the East Seoul Branch which was originally sent to President Catuira’s employer during the month of November. The memorandum states belief that the conditions at the company warrant cancellation of it employment permit (the permit granted to employers allowing them to employ foreign workers under the Employment Permit System). It asks the company to submit an opinion with regards to this accusation by November 29, and states that a lack of response will be taken as agreement with the content of the memorandum and the permit subsequently cancelled. Through a telephone call to the East Seoul Branch today, MTU confirmed that Park Gyu-sang’s employment permit was indeed cancelled on December 1.


The memorandum states that since the company in question has been without work for several months and has “not been the recipient of foreign labor, it is in a situation inconsistent with the purpose of the Employment Permit System [to provide foreign labor to companies facing labor shortages] and, therefore, faces difficulty in maintaining the contract of employment” per Article 19, clause 1, para. 3 of the Act on the Employment, etc. of Foreign Workers.


In fact, however, the situation at President Catuira’s place of employment does not warrant cancellation of the employment permit. Article 19, clause 1, para. 3 of the Act on the Employment, etc. of Foreign Workers states that an employment permit can be cancelled “If the relevant contract of employment is found difficult to be maintained because of the employer’s delayed payment of wages or other violations of any labor-related Acts.” While there has been little work at the company, President Catuira and his employer have agreed he will return to work once production picks up. There have been no complaints concerning delay in payment of wages or other labor law violations of the type to which Article 19, clause. 1, para. 3 is addressed.


Clearly the East Seoul Branch has gone out of its way to find a reason to cancel President Catuira’s employer’s employment permit. Following the Immigration Service’s summoning of President Catuira, this is yet another effort to destabilize the conditions upon which President Catuira’s visa is based with the goal of making him deportable. These acts are none other than labor repression against MTU.


We ask that you take these new developments into consideration as you plan intervention in this case. We will continue to inform you as new developments occur.