By Oksana Abboud, StreetNet Organiser for Europe & Asia
On 12-17 January StreetNet delegates embarked on a trip to South Korea. Oksana Abboud, StreetNet Organiser for Europe and Asia and Sibailly Maximillien Douhoure, StreetNet Organiser for Africa/Educator had a successful visit to KOSC. They were sent to South Korea to improve communications between StreetNet and South Korean Affiliate KOSC (Korean Street Vendors Confederation) as well as to discuss the Policy Workshop for South Korean Affiliates, which is foreseen in the framework of the FLOW Project.
The program for this field trip was arranged by assistance of the Ex-worker of the KOSC Mr. Hee-Chul Shin, who also assisted the StreetNet delegation during the whole stay in Seoul.
KOSC- Korea Street Vendors Confederation has been affiliated to StreetNet since 2004. KOSC currently has 43 branches and unites 3000 members. During its last Congress in April 2013, a new leadership of KOSC was elected.
Co-operating with other South Korean organisations in solidarity, KOSC works not only for protection of street vendors’ rights but also for increasing livelihood and promoting democracy in the country.
The agenda for StreetNet delegates consisted of different meetings with new leadership of KOSC, its Branches and Solidarity Organisations.
Mr. Cho, Deok- Huy, the current KOSC President briefed us about the current situation in KOSC and in South Korea regarding street vendors’ life. He also underlined the importance for the KOSC to be affiliated to the StreetNet International.
During their last Congress in April 2013, the KOSC leadership made a
decision to start negotiations with DUSVK – the organisation that left
KOSC in 2010. Their relationship has been improving since the change
of KOSC leadership in 2013. There is a big need of unity in South
Korea among street vendors.
The President also emphasized the main challenges for street vendors in South Korea and noted two main methods being used by the country authority to release from street vendors:
- Using of civilian service officers (officially hired for making a crackdown/eviction);
- Legalisation of street vendors (this regulation policy contains a numerous restrictions for street vending). KOSC is totally opposing the legalisation policy of street vendors in South Korea as it is aimed only to reduce the number of street vendors but not to protect their rights. KOSC is also waiting for the StreetNet support in this issue.
KOSC leaders invited StreetNet to attend the National Street Vendors Rally of South Korea, which is going to be held on 13th June 2014. (South Korean street vendors hold this Rally every year to commemorate 1988 year’s street vendors’ rally against mass crackdown(evictions) before 1988 Asian Game and Seoul Olympic.
KOSC leaders were also talking about the exchange visits programs between KOSC and other StreetNet affiliates, which KOSC would like to implement in the near future.
During our Field visit to the KOSC Branch the StreetNet delegates attended the training for this branch, where Mrs. Yu, Eui Sun, Policy Chair explained to the members about the new KOSC Policy and the future plans to democratise the organisation and make its leadership more accountable. Building a bargaining structure is one of the Policy priorities for KOSC now. The issue of the legalisation processes of street vendors was also emphasized by Mrs. Sun, who stated that every year municipality tries to reduce the amount of street vendors to be legalised.
On 28 of February 2007, the Seoul Metropolitan government declared as a press conference that it had changed from the previous policy prohibiting street vending policy to the one that is a regulatory, so called the Special Regulating Policy on Street Vendors. However, this policy did not mean to guarantee the rights of the street vendors, but to clean the streets.
She also raised the issue of a new Law for Street Vendors that KOSC decided to develop to guarantee the basic rights of street vendors and promote in the National Assembly to be passed at the national level.
We also visited another KOSC Branch that used to be the most progressive and successful one which unites 11 branches comprising around 230 members, 60 % of whom are female.
The branch suffered crackdown just on the Christmas Eve at the end of 2013. The mayor broke his promise where he stated during the event where the branch and other local civil organisations attended, just one week before the crackdown/eviction took place. The office employed a high school student as a part-time worker who is the schoolmate of one of the members’ son.
The StreetNet sent a support letter to the KOSC and a protest letter to the Mayor of Nowon-gu Office in Seoul city.
On December 26, 2013 the Branch held a Press Conference to stop the crackdown/eviction. The leadership also tries to convince ordinary residents of the district to have better perception of the street vendors and to understand them and their life. The branch also received some support from the district residents and works in solidarity with local community organisations.
With regards to the Policy Workshop, Mrs. Sun underlined that the main topic for discussion during this workshop can be “making a new Law on street vendors”. She proposed to already introduce a draft Law during this workshop with involvement of professors and lawmakers.
StreetNet shared with KOSC about the Indian Law and promised to send them a copy of this Law.
StreetNet delegation also met with KCTU- Korean Confederation of Trade Unions is one of two National Trade Union Centers in South Korea, affiliated to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). KCTU doesn’t have any informal workers’ unions in its structure but plans to organize domestic workers.
The meeting was held in the KCTU Headquarter attended by Mr. Lee, Chang-Geun, KCTU Executive Director.
The main issues for discussion from StreetNet side were:
- Policy Workshop for the KOSC;
- The ILO Conference 2014.
The field trip to South Korea was very useful and fruitful as the main purposes of this visit have been achieved and both StreetNet and KOSC agreed to start a new stage of cooperation.