A two-day regional conference on ethical recruitment of migrant fishermen working in Korean-flagged vessels opened in Seoul, bringing together approximately 100 participants, including government officials from Indonesia, Viet Nam, the Philippines and South Korea.
The East Asia/Southeast Asia Regional conference on Ethical Recruitment and Policy Harmonization in Fishing Industry, co-hosted by IOM Seoul, in collaboration with the National Assembly Human Rights Forum and Advocates for Public Interest Law (APIL), is part of a US-funded research project IOM Seoul and APIL have been conducting since 2014, to investigate migrant fishermen’s recruitment patterns and working conditions on Korean-flagged fishing vessels.
For the last two years, IOM Seoul and APIL have made several field visits to Indonesia, Viet Nam and the Philippines to interview migrant fishermen who have worked in Korean-flagged fishing vessels.
The conference, which will share findings from the field, aims to focus on finding concrete measures to develop fair and ethical recruitment practices, through policy discussions between the South Korean government and the sending countries of migrant fishermen.
On the first day of the conference, government officials from Indonesia, Viet Nam, the Philippines and South Korea presented on efforts by sending and receiving countries to protect migrant fishermen. On the second day, the participants will discuss policy gaps and gather recommendations to address them.
“Even though there exist international agreements to protect the human rights of every migrant worker, migrant fishermen are often exploited, experiencing low wages and high recruitment fees, due to unfair and unethical recruitment practices,” said Miah Park, Head of Office at IOM Seoul.
“I hope this event will provide a valuable opportunity for participants to learn about the importance of establishing fair and ethical recruitment practices to protect the human rights of migrant fishermen,” she added.
The harsh working conditions of migrant fishermen on Korean-flagged fishing vessels became public knowledge following a series of domestic incidents. The situation became internationally known in June 2011, when 32 Indonesian migrant fishermen working on a Korean-flagged deep sea vessel ran away when the ship docked in New Zealand. They revealed that they had endured inhumane treatment, including physical abuse and being paid extremely low wages.