Petition urging that the 10 Vietnamese Migrant Workers be found

Not Guilty and Released


Recently, 10 Vietnamese migrant workers working in South Korea were arrested, detained and brought to trial. The 10 individuals had been among 200 Vietnamese workers employed to construct the substructure of a container wharf at the Incheon New Port last year. The Prosecutor's Office has charged them with several crimes including obstruction of business, group violence, mob assault and assault with a deadly weapon.  


In addition, the prosecution is claiming that the Vietnamese migrant workers carried out an illegal strike, through which they caused significant losses to the company that employed them.


In reality, however, these workers faced subhuman treatment and were subjected to forced labor on the Incheon New Port construction site. They were not allowed to rest on Sundays despite the fact that the South Korean Labor Standards Act guarantees workers one day of a week. They were forced to work in 12-hour shifts, with one running during the day and the other during the night. All the while they receiving only minimum wage. In addition, they were forced to pay for meals despite the fact that their employer had originally promised that meals would be provided. Even worse, management, claiming that they did not work hard enough, began deducting an hour worth of wages from their pay. These actions constitute severe violations of the Labor Standard Act and violation of the workers' employment contract. When the workers protested, however, management responded by telling them they would be fired or, "reported to the Ministry of Labor and deported."       


For workers to refuse their labor in the face of such unfair conditions is completely justified. And, indeed, the Incheon New Port workers responded with a strike. Regardless of the technical legality or illegality of this collective action, it must be recognized that refusing to provide labor when management is in violation of the employment contract is a completely justified act. As such, the prosecution's indictment is blatantly unjust.


In its letter of indictment the prosecution claims that the workers who were arrested had led the strike and used threats and force to make other workers participate. It has become clear in the course of the trial. However, that some of the workers arrested had, in fact, worked at the construction site for less than a week and were not even familiar with their duties there. Given this fact we cannot help but doubt the credibility of the prosecution's indictment. Far from what the prosecution is claiming, these workers were pushed into two rounds of spontaneous action by the subhuman conditions under which they were forced to work. 

The prosecution's accusation of "group violence" is also highly doubtful. We believe that the prosecution has exaggerated this charge in order to create a basis for calling the group action "illegal".


All of the Vietnamese workers involved in this incident had come to Korea under the Employment Permit System (EPS). The South Korean government claims that the EPS protects the labor rights of migrant workers in full. This case shows, however, that the labor rights of migrant workers in South Korea are actually completely disregarded. What is more, the conditions faced by the Incheon New Port workers are not at all unique. They are similar to the conditions faced by the majority of migrant workers in South Korea.  


If these workers are found guilty of the charges brought against them, it will be a direct demonstration of just how unequal and unjust the South Korean government and South Korean society's treatment of migrant workers is. We sincerely hope that these workers will be found not guilty and freed so they can return to their lives as common workers for the sake of their futures and their families in Vietnam. If these workers are found guilty they will all be subject to forcible deportation under the Immigration Control Act. We fervently hope that their employer's cruel treatment and the prosecution's trumped-up charges will not led to the horrible consequence of turning this young workers into law-breakers.  



Name:  _______________________________        Organization: _________________________

Position:  ____________________________         Signature: ____________________________