The MTU Zine is a noncommercial, online publication that combines graphics with history, information, and activism. Its goal is to propagate the unknown histories and conditions of migrant workers in The Republic of Korea (ROK) and the activities and history of the Migrants' Trade Union (MTU) with the hope of uniting in solidarity with labor unions around the world.

The Migrants Trade Union (MTU)

The Seoul-Gyeonggi-Incheon Migrants’ Trade Union (MTU) is a union founded for and by migrant workers in April 2005.

MTU was formed in the wake of a 381-day-long sit-in protest against the government’s crackdown on undocumented migrant workers and the enforcement of a new system for regulating migrant labor (the Employment Permit System), which went on from November 2003 to December 2004. The migrant workers who formed the heart of this struggle went on to found MTU in order to fight for equal labor rights, an end to government crackdowns, and the legalization of all undocumented migrant workers.

The South Korean government refused to recognize MTU as a legal union for 10 years, its main argument being that MTU’s membership is made up of undocumented migrant workers, who it says do not have the right to form or participate in unions. But MTU’s constitution states that all migrant workers, regardless of status, may become members and run for union officer positions in union elections. In fact, our membership includes documented and undocumented migrant workers, who are all struggling for our rights together. Moreover, we know that in both Korean and international law, all workers are entitled to the right to freedom of association, regardless of their social status.

Therefore, we began a lawsuit to challenge the government’s decision, and in 2007 the Seoul High Court ruled in our favor. The government, however, has appealed this decision to the Supreme Court and has shamelessly targeted our leaders for arrest and deportation in an attempt to smother our union. MTU’s leadership has been arrested 3 times in April 2005, November 2007, and May 2005. This pattern caused the ILO Committee of Freedom of Association to recommend to the South Korean Government to stop its targeting of MTU officers. We have not backed down in the face of government repression and continue to fight for the rights we justly deserve. On June 25, 2015, a supreme court decision stated, “considering the purpose of the Trade Union Act, foreigners who are not legally eligible for employment are included in the scope of workers stipulated by the Trade Union Act, and therefore can freely form and join a union.” After 10 years of litigation and government repression, the MTU finally became an official labor union recognized by the law and society. 

The MTU provides a space and time for union staff to assist migrant workers in the ROK and to strategize ways to progress its movement. Union offices staffed by union members in several locations in ROK work from Sundays through Thursdays to mediate and resolve any labor-related problems reported by migrant workers. The MTU has helped migrant workers with issues such as late or unpaid wages, nonpayment of severance or compensation pay, workplace abuse, sexual harassment, housing/living conditions, workplace injuries, etc. 


The zine contains things such as a brief history of migrant workers in ROK, history of migrant worker protests, efforts to unionize, activities of MTU, the migrant workers' housing crisis, the struggles of migrant workers in the fishing industry, information on the EPS system and the WPS system, and testimonies of migrant workers. The zine tries to present a framework in which the reader can place the struggle of migrant workers in the ROK within the broader contexts of capitalism, neoliberalism, racism, xenophobia, post-colonization, and systematic modes of discrimination and oppression. Thus, the MTU Zine provides an online library where one can find academic analyses of the transformation of the ROK from an undeveloped, poor agricultural country to an advanced (sub)empire that is experiencing a shortage of manual workers. Our library was made in the hopes of it being a communal library in which anyone can contribute. So if you would like to share and add new materials to our library, please let us know via our contact form. Thank you!

What We're Fighting For

Free Job Change! Change Employment Permit System (EPS) into Work Permit System (WPS)!

Guarantee Decent Accommodations!

Stop Wage & Severance Pay Theft!

Give EPS Migrant Workers Severance Pay Within 14 Days After Leaving their Company!

Abolish the Article 63 of the Labor Standards Law!

Guarantee The Workers Rights in Agribusiness & Fishery Sectors!

Abolish Discrimination in National Healthcare Insurance!

Make Countermeasures Against Industrial Accident Death!

Cover All Migrant Workers With Industrial Accident Insurance!

Eradicate Gender-Based Discrimination and Violence on Women Migrant Workers!

Legalized All Undocumented Migrant Workers!

Stop Racial Discrimination in the COVID-19 Policies!

Stop the repression of migrant workers!

Ensure the Human & Labor rights of migrant workers!