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Thursday, 27 September, 2001, 16:22 GMT 17:22 UK
South Korea accused of using slave labour
Clothes hanging on rail
Some clothes are made using sweatshop labour
By BBC World Business Report's Sally Hardcastle

Garment workers around the world are accusing South Korean companies of treating workers as "virtual slaves" in factories abroad.

The Secretary General of the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers Federation (ITGLW) has gone to Seoul to protest about the treatment of workers in countries including Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

The ITGLW, which represents workers in the garment industry all around the world, alleges that South Korean companies running factories abroad top the list of bad employers.

The organisation's Secretary General Neil Kearney is in South Korea to present evidence which has come in from factories in many developing nations.

Sweatshop conditions

Mr Kearney told World Business Report that employees had to work long hours for starvation wages.

According to Mr Kearney, workers are often beaten when they made mistakes and fired if they complained.

Workers are mostly female and many of them of them live in fear of their lives.

Union General Secretary Neil Kearney
"If workers attempt to form a trade union, all sorts of harassment and intimidation followed," he added.

He claims that that the rogue employers ride rough-shod over local labour laws - and are starting to give the south Korean clothing industry a bad name around the world.

The Korea International Trade Association has admitted that some South Korean businessmen abroad have treated local workers unfairly.

However, it believes this can partly be blamed on different corporate cultures, but insists that the situation is improving.

See also:

07 Sep 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: South Korea
07 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
Investment boost to textile industry
25 Jul 01 | Business
Plea for textiles aid
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