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Report/Press release

Bitter Harvest: Exploitation and Forced Labour of Migrant Agricultural Workers in South Korea




Amnesty International, International Secretariat


As of 2013, around 250,000 migrant workers were employed in the Republic of Korea
(South Korea) under the Employment Permit System (EPS). Since the establishment of the
EPS ten years ago, Amnesty International has repeatedly raised concerns on how this work
scheme directly contributes to human and labour rights violations by severely restricting
migrant workers’ ability to change jobs and challenge abusive practices by employers.
Similar concerns have also been raised by a number of UN bodies,2 but the South Korean
government has consistently failed to implement their recommendations. As a consequence,
a significant number of migrant workers continue to be regularly exposed to serious
exploitation, which includes excessive working hours, unpaid overtime, denial of rest days and breaks, threats, violence, trafficking and forced labour Following Amnesty International’s previous research on the EPS in 2006 and 2009,3
report focuses on migrant agricultural workers, who account for some 8% of all EPS workers.4
Agriculture is one of the sectors with the least legal safeguards and, consequently, migrant
workers in this sector are at greater risk of exploitation and abuse.

Document number

ASA 25/004/2014

Number of pages


Responsible institution

Amnesty International, International Secretariat

Place published

London, UK

File Attachments



Underpayment, Late payment, Denial of Leave, Excessive hours

Economic sectors

Agriculture and horticulture workers and Natural resources, agriculture and related production occupations - general

Content types

Policy analysis, Documented cases of abuse, Statistics on work and life conditions, Current Policy, Numbers of migrant workers, and Systemic/state violation of right/freedom

Target groups

Policymakers and Public awareness

Geographical focuses

South Korea