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November 2002, Volume 9, Number 11

Japan, Korea

Economy. Japan has many "zombie" companies that are being kept alive by credit alone, including for instance, construction companies that built expensive, money-losing golf courses. Many of the construction firms are kept alive by new loans; about 10 percent of Japanese workers are employed in construction, which provides contributions to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. Japan's banks, which have $437 billion in bad loans on their books, keep lending money to zombie companies so they do not have to write off the loans.

The municipal assembly in Takaishi, Osaka Prefecture, approved a measure which allows foreigners with permanent residence status to vote on the issue of whether the municipality should merge with the city of Sakai. This is the second time foreigners with permanent resident status have been allowed to vote; foreign residents are still not allowed to participate in national or local elections.

Korea. The number of industrial accidents involving foreign workers has risen dramatically in recent years. According to the Labor Ministry, the number rose from 755 in 1998 to 1,491 in 2001, and 1,011 in the first six months of 2002. Between 1998 and 2001, 161 died, and two-thirds of them were illegal immigrants. According the Labor Ministry, undocumented foreign workers are less likely to report accidents than other workers, so it is likely that the actual figures are much higher.

The Labor Ministry began inspections in October which focus on seven industries where accidents occur; they include construction firms and manufacturers of metal and chemical products. The inspections will continue for six months and facilities found to pose work hazards will be shut down or told to improve safety.

The Philippine Embassy filed a suit on behalf of 11 Filipino women who were forced into prostitution at a bar reserved for US servicemen in Tongduchon, Korea. A dispute between the recruiter and the bar owner led to a tip and police raid, and the Embassy persuaded the Korean police not to prosecute the women for prostitution. Before being repatriated to the Philippines in July, the 11 women signed sworn statements and had their testimony videotaped. Of the 30,000 Filipinos in Korea, 17,000 are in Korea illegally.

The Korean government announced that it would tighten regulations on E-6 entertainment visas, requiring women seeking such visas to be interviewed by Korean diplomatic offices in their countries. Prostitution by foreign women near U.S. military bases in Korea is emerging as an international human rights issue.

"Lawsuit Represents Test Case for Protection of Human Rights," Korea Times, October 19, 2002