South Korean interns ‘free labour for Japanese hotels’

South Korean interns ‘free labour for Japanese hotels’

South Korean university students who come to Japan to gain school credits through internships frequently work at hotels for less than minimum wage or without getting paid at all, it has been learned.

It appears that hotels looking to reduce labour costs, as well as businesses serving as intermediaries, are taking advantage of students seeking school credits.

This possibly violates a notice issued by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry that interns should be treated as workers depending on their duties, but the ministry appears not to have a handle on the situation, leaving the practice largely unchecked.

Useful workers

The president of a hotel in Nagano Prefecture reportedly said South Korean student interns "are useful as workers,"

About three years ago, the hotel began accepting South Korean students studying Japanese tourism, including five who came this year from early July to late August.

For the interns the experience is part of their Japanese and customer service course requirements.

They reportedly receive lodging and three meals a day, and in exchange work at least seven hours per day, five days a week, preparing meals for guests, cleaning, making beds and doing other jobs. Their duties are the same as many of the hotel's regular employees.

Internships are not regulated by law, but the government in 1997 issued a notice stating that if interns perform tasks that benefit a business under the business' supervision and orders, they should be treated as workers.

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