Korea breaches labor commitments in FTA with the European Union

The panel report released Monday confirms the European Union‘s concern that the Republic of Korea has not acted consistently with its labor and sustainable development obligations under the EU-Republic of Korea trade agreement.

The independent panel concluded that the Republic of Korea needs to adjust its labor laws and practices and rapidly continue the ratification process of four core International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions to comply with the agreement.

Executive Vice President and Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis said: “This panel ruling shows the effectiveness of our cooperative approach to trade and sustainable development. We have worked closely with our Korean partners for a few years, and the expert panel process led to concrete actions from Korea. We will work closely with Korea to ensure that it effectively implements commitments on workers’ rights.”

Labor commitments

The expert panel appointed by the Republic of Korea and the EU established that the Republic of Korea needs to adjust its labor laws and practices to comply with the principle of freedom of association.

The experts also agreed that the commitment to take steps towards the ratification of the fundamental ILO Conventions requires continuous and substantial efforts.

Finally, the panel confirmed the EU’s arguments that the two commitments in question are legally binding and must be respected regardless of their effect on trade.

Panel Background

The dispute settlement procedure under the trade and sustainable development chapter of the EU-ROK trade agreement was launched after previous efforts failed to provide a satisfactory solution.

In the EU-Republic of Korea trade agreement, both parties committed to respecting international fundamental labor rights and standards. This includes the establishment of national legal guarantees to comply with the principles of the core labor standards defined by the ILO, including freedom of association. The commitments also include continued and sustained efforts to ratify the core ILO Conventions.


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