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SOUTH KOREA: “Please apologise to the Philippines”, government told

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The South Korean ambassador to the Philippines last year recommended the Philippine government to stop investigation on Filipino workers' deaths in South Korean companies in the country. As his letter was disclosed by a newspaper this month, civil society organisations in South Korea, including a FORUM-ASIA member Korean House for International Solidarity (KHIS), issued a joint statement on 10 February 2009, requesting for his apology to the Philippine people. 

According to the survey by the Philippine Parliament, 17 workers died at Hanjin Heavy Industries & Construction Company (Hanjin HICC) since 2006, while civil society estimates 40 deaths. The company has not taken any action to improve the working circumstances in the country. Hanjin HICC also fired its Filipino employees who were establishing a labour union.

In the letter to the President of the Senate of the Philippines, Joong-Kyung Choi, the South Korean ambassador to the Philippines, said, "the investigations on industrial accidents might bring negative result to the relationship between the Republic of Korea and the Philippines".

"The current South Korean government is not concerned about implementing international human rights standards and only focuses on the interest of enterprises", the organisations say. Hanjin HICC is not the only South Korean company in the Philippines to "violate labour rights of Filipino workers, including suppressing labour union". 

While requesting for an apology of the ambassador to the Philippine parliament and people, the statement also calls upon the Korean government to take the lead in protecting workers' rights, and Hanjin HICC to compensate the victims and their families.