SEOUL, Jan. 21 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the European Union (EU) on Monday kicked off consultations over the EU's call for Seoul to ratify the International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions, the labor ministry said.
The European Commission formally asked the South Korean government in December to start consultations on labor issues on the grounds that Seoul has not made enough efforts to approve the ILO provisions as agreed in their free trade agreement (FTA) implemented in 2011.
South Korea joined the United Nations agency on labor in 1991 but hasn't ratified four key conventions, including abolition of forced labor, freedom of association, and protection of the right to organize and the right to collective bargaining.
The Ministry of Employment and Labor said that it plans to explain the government's efforts to seek the early ratification of the ILO conventions to improve the nation's labor rights and working conditions. The ministry will also give details about discussions on labor issues under way among government officials, workers and employers.
The EU made a request for consultations over the ILO conventions under a dispute settlement mechanism in the Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD) chapter in its FTA with South Korea.
It was the EU's first FTA that included the TSD chapter, which is aimed at improving labor and environmental standards in South Korea and EU member states.
South Korea's previous governments have held consultations with the labor circle since early 2000 to ratify the key labor conventions, but little progress has been made due mainly to conflicting opinions from the different stakeholders.
A new council involving labor, management, government and those representing various social strata was launched last year as a social dialogue group to discuss labor issues, including the ratification of the ILO conventions.
Failing to ratify the ILO provisions does not necessarily lead to additional tariffs or penalties, but the Korean government worries that a delayed process could act as a barrier to expanding free trade between the two sides.
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