News in Asia: Workers’ Struggles Edition

For this week’s edition, I thought I’d highlight the struggles faced by workers around Asia and the various strikes taking place in different countries. I’ll also include a handful of other important events. 

Construction workers at a Samsung factory site in North Vietnam clashed with security guards after disagreeing over safety measures. An estimated 11 people were hurt in the clashes that saw motorbikes and trailers burned. Vietnam is increasingly taking over from China as the place where tech companies have their products and devices manufactured due to increasing Chinese labor costs.

Labor news out of South Korea is a bit grim right now. A 22-day strike by KORAIL workers ended at the start of the new year. The strike was the longest by Korean rail workers. The strike was in protest of moves to privatize the rail system. Labor union leaders faced a harsh crackdown by the South Korean government, though the strikers gained popular support within the country. The strike ended when it was promised that a subcommittee would be formed to prevent privatization.

In other strike news, workers for Homeplus supermarkets (owned by the UK company Tesco. Think Super Targets in the US) are threatening to strike in protest of “0.5 contracts.” Workers are paid on a half-hour basis instead of hourly; therefore, they can be ineligible for the mandatory hour break required for an eight-hour shift. Also, cashiers are not compensated for the time it takes to hand over duties at the cash register to their replacement. Homeplus’ other major rivals, E-Mart and Lotte Mart. have adopted more progressive policies.

Cambodian garment workers have been forced back to work after violent government crackdowns ended a 15-day strike. It’s estimated that 60-70 percent of the 300,000 workers are returning to work, albeit reluctantly.

Other News in Asia

A story that has been widely reported and that still deserves to be told: A 15-year-old boy named Aitezaz Hasan died while fighting with a suicide bomber while on his way to school. The bomber was wearing a school uniform and was questioning Hasan and his friends as to the location of the school. When the boy tackled him, the bomb was detonated, killing both the bomber and Hasan. The boy’s action potentially saved hundreds in the school. The outpouring of emotion has been immense, with many calling Hasan the “male version of Malala.” Many are calling for Hasan to be awarded the country’s top civilian honor posthumously.

Philippines

The government of the Philippines is staying on guard in order to combat child trafficking in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. The Filipino government is taking requests that they investigate rises in the trafficking of children seriously as the conditions of displaced families are ripe for those who would take advantage of the most vulnerable.

Afghanistan

As has been mentioned here before, relations between the US and Afghan governments have been strained, to say the least. The accidental shooting of a four-year-old boy by US troops has definitely not helped matters.

If that wasn’t enough to depress you, it seems like the use of child suicide bombers is on the rise. A ten-year-old girl who was arrested at a checkpoint while wearing a suicide vest said she was forced to do it by her family and says that if she is returned to them, she may be forced to wear another one.

North Korea

Many of you are probably aware of the shit show that has been Dennis Rodman’s visit to North Korea. Now, the former basketball player has apologized for statements he made during an interview where he said Kenneth Bae, an American missionary sentenced to hard labor, “Deserved his fate.”

Saudi Arabia

Finally, in some awesome news, Bayan Mahmoud Al-Zahran, the first Saudi woman lawyer to be issued a license to practice law in the country, has opened the first female law firm. Al-Zahran told Arab News that the objective of her law firm is to, “Fight for the rights of Saudi women and bring their problems before the court, since male lawyers in many cases couldn’t understand the problems and situations of a female plaintiff.”

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Stephens

Florida girl, would-be world traveler and semi-permanent expat. Her main strategy of life is to throw out the nets and hope something useful comes back, but many times it's just an old shoe. She also really, really hates winter and people who are consistently late.

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