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The Peninsula

Labor Rights as Public Health Policy

Published October 8, 2020
Author: Korea View
Category: Current Events

What Happened

  • A Seoul court recently upheld bans on rallies of more than 10 people in an effort to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Meanwhile, seven parcel delivery workers have died so-far in 2020 from overwork, as the coronavirus outbreak led to a sharp surge in the parcel delivery demand.
  • In August, 2,000 people attended a rally organized by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) to protest current working conditions.

Implications: The South Korean government’s strict adherence to social distancing might stymie efforts by key stakeholders and civic actors to improve public health. For instance, the KCTU claims that many delivery companies have not invested in sufficient preventative measures to safeguard their employees from COVID-19. In addition, other labor advocates point out that there are pressing safety issues in the workplace that need to be addressed beyond COVID-19. In this environment, the South Korean government’s view that civic engagement and public health are mutually exclusive might be misplaced.

Context: Increased strictness around social gatherings came as South Korea recorded the highest number of cases it has seen since March, raising concerns that COVID-19 might spread more aggressively during the country’s Chuseok holidays. Widespread public scrutiny of radical churches that contributed to recent cluster infections have helped strengthen the government’s case for stricter punishment of people participating in mass rallies.

This briefing comes from Korea View, a weekly newsletter published by the Korea Economic Institute. Korea View aims to cover developments that reveal trends on the Korean Peninsula but receive little attention in the United States. If you would like to sign up, please find the online form here.

Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Sophie Joo, Sonia Kim, and Chris Lee. Picture from flickr user odius kim

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