Under pressure from the European Union for non-compliance with the free trade agreement, South Korea’s government announced that it had relaunched the process of ratifying the ILO conventions on freedom of association, the right to organize and bargain collectively, and the prohibition of forced labour (albeit only one of the conventions, with the other still requiring some legal adaptation). This free trade agreement, which entered into force in 2015, intends for these fundamental conventions to be ratified as part of the social clauses that are developing within trade agreements geared to making them an instrument for promoting social standards and combating social dumping (c.f. Article No. 12012 on the new European strategy on the topic). In 2019 the EU had warned that it would have to react severely (c.f. article No. 11080) in the absence of a rapid ratification by South Korea of the ILO Conventions. The avenue provided for in the agreement is the temporary suspension of trade preferences procedure. In March 2020, the new EU Trade Commissioner, Phil Hogan, said he was “ready to suspend” the bi-lateral trade agreement if the group of experts in charge of monitoring confirmed South Korean law was non-compliant. However the report was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. South Korea’s first attempt at ratification stalled in parliament, but the new legislature, in which the ruling party has a majority, is now expected to drive the process right through to completion.
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