Watchdog urges state plan for workplace human rights in Korea

South Korea's human rights commission said Monday that it plans to recommend the government to set rules on business management to avert human rights abuses at workplaces.

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea will reveal its recommendations to the government at the upcoming forum, titled "Human Rights Management Forum," on Friday and collect opinions from civil society, businesses and the public.

The commission will ask the government to draft a National Action Plan in accordance with global standards to encourage businesses to respect human rights in operating companies.

Under the guidelines, state-run organisations should release their achievement for "human rights-friendly" management on a regular basis, which will be taken into account when the government allocates a budget.

For large-sized companies, the information about their human rights situation at workplaces will be required to be released.

Small and medium-sized enterprises will be advised to root out discrimination at work, violation of labour rights and underpayment.

The human rights commission will also suggest that the Korean government lay out legal measures that enable foreigners working for overseas Korean companies to file a suit here when their rights are infringed.

The move came after the United Nations mapped out instructions in 2011 for multinational conglomerates as part of efforts to prevent breach of basic labour rights amid mounting criticism over the companies' exploitation of workers in developing countries.

The United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Switzerland are among the countries that have already announced a NAP or are working toward introducing one.

But the business leaders are reportedly "not too happy" with such recommendations, an official from the human rights commission said. "We asked several business leaders and groups to attend the upcoming forum to discuss the plan, but they were reluctant to participate in it," the official said.

Earlier in 2011, the human rights commission had added a section stipulating companies' duty to protect human rights in the first draft of the nation's 2012-16 basic human rights plan.

But it scrapped the part in the face of strong opposition from businesses claiming that such a measure could stifle the business environment.

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