2010 Declaration of the Human Rights of Migrants

Towards a New World without Discrimination and Exploitation!


① In this country we have been given the name 'migrant'. This word has many meanings, which we did not choose ourselves. In addition to signifying someone who lived in another place and then migrated to South Korea, 'migrant' refers to someone who is the object of repression and exploitation in the workplace and discrimination and rejection in everyday life. Even worse, 'migrant' connotes a latent criminal and the target of policing, control and expulsion in the eyes of the South Korean government. In the past, we fought against these chains that bind us with our whole bodies and spirits. The more we looked for the key to unlock the lock on the chains, however, the deeper the key ring grasped in the hand of our oppressor became hidden in a maze.

20 years laced with discrimination and exploitation have now passed. After all of our resistance we have realized something. That only we, and no one else, can achieve our own freedom. That the key that can unlock the chains that bind us is not in the oppressors hand but in ours. That we can rewrite the meaning that Korean society has given to the name 'migrant'. This means that we can rewrite 'migrant' as beautiful.


② We firmly reject the idea that we must endure repression and exploitation. We reject the Employment Permit System (EPS), which gives power to the government and employers to grant us jobs but refuses us the rights to association, bargaining and collective action that in fact belong to all workers. As members of the Korean working class who know the value of our sweat and our labor, we declare our right to live as workers who freely choose their jobs. Short-term rotation policies, like the EPS, fail to take into account that migrants are people and are the origins of discrimination and human rights abuses. These policies treat migrants as tools of profit but denied us the right to live as human beings. The EPS is a barometer that reflects the perspective and atmosphere of South Korean society. We are already living in this land. The EPS, which denies this fact while also denying justice and the needs of Korean society must be abolished immediately.


③ We refuse to be the targets of policing and expulsion. We are not latent criminals. We are merely people seeking happiness for ourselves and our families. We have no intentions to cause harm to anyone. All human beings have the right to physical freedom and the right to defend that freedom. These rights must be protected. As such, we firmly reject the government's labeling of as us latent criminals. The government uses this label to justify its brutal crackdown against us, which it claims is necessary to maintain the safety of South Korean society and even to protect our human rights. We recognize, however, that these claims are simply a means to hide the fact that the government's actions are illegal and violate human rights. The indiscriminate, inhumane and life-threatening raids and deportations must stop immediately.


④ In the name of 3 million overseas Koreans we firmly reject discrimination against overseas Koreans from less-developed countries, which has become an absolute yardstick by which to measure South Korean. Some 350 thousand overseas Koreans from China and the countries of the former Soviet Union are living as migrants in South Korean society. Despite the fact that are all overseas Koreans, in South Korean society, the Act on Overseas Koreans applies fully to overseas Koreans from rich countries and only partially to those who come from poorer countries. The South Korean governments attempt to broaden the field of discrimination, which arises from its fixation on economic capacity, cannot but be an indicator of the state of society. As overseas Koreans and migrants we reject all efforts to keep us in field of discrimination and firmly demand our rights.


⑤ We demand our rights as workers and has women who have come to this country to live as members of families. We should not be denied rights as women and as workers because we are migrants. Women migrant workers must be allowed to reside safely in this country. Our rights must not be violated due to abuse of authority at the workplace or any other criminal designs. Protection of and redress for the violation of women migrant workers rights must be swift. The essential dignity of women who have migrated through marriage must be respected. We reject all attitudes that reduce women to a form of exchange value and reaffirm the fact that proper family life begins with respect for one's partner's culture. Marriage migrants have the right to respect and happiness based on true multiculturalism, not a false multiculturalism that means unilateral imposition of Korean culture.

We assert that all children in the country have equal rights. The government's attitude of singling out the children of multicultural families and refusing to recognize the children born of undocumented migrants equals discrimination against children. All children have the right to registration based on birth and to attain nationality, and these rights must not be violated simply because of the residence status of their parents. In fact, children should be given more protection and attention in the event that they lack a nationality. In particular, no child should be denied heath and education rights on the basis that he/she does not have a nationality. We also affirm that all children have the right to be raised in a healthy manner by their families, in particular their parents. All provisions that discrimination against children are illegal and must be abolished.


⑥ We demand that the government give immediate attention and protection to refugees and asylum seekers. We are concerned that applications for asylum are proceeded in a manner aimed at administrative ease rather than being based on rationality and fairness. The current system of reviewing applications is carried out in a manner overly dependent on international politics and the easy management of visas without consideration for human beings' basic right to life. We demand that the system be revised and ask that more visas be granted for humanitarian reasons. We wish to see South Korea become a place where individuals who flee persecution and discrimination can live with their rights respected. We also demand that the South Korean government ratify the International Convention on Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. We stress that equal protection of the rights of migrants and their families through the ratification of the Convention, which outlines concrete practices, is necessary if the advent of the age of muliculturalism is to be more than simply a noisy event.

We believe that our declaration is not only meaningful for us migrant workers, but will also help to make South Korean society more just, more fee and more beautiful. Our declaration is a dignified call to break the chains of discrimination and exploitation and build a new world through social solidarity.


● Stop discrimination against migrant workers and abolish restrictions on workplace transfers!

● Stop the crackdown and deportations and legalize all undocumented migrant workers

● Stop criminalization of migrant workers!

● Protect the rights of migrant women!

● Protect migrant children's health and education rights!

● Increase recognition of refugee status and protect refugees' rights!

● Fully implement the Act on Overseas Koreans and protect overseas Koreans' right to travel freely!

● Ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Migrants!


2010 International Migrants Day Assembly in Korea