Washington International Law Journal


South Korea heralds North Korea’s Kaesong Special Economic Zone as a shining example of inter-Korean cooperation. South Korean corporations at Kaesong combine South Korean expertise with North Korean labor. However, Kaesong operations violate the North Korean workers’ labor rights. This Comment explores the legal mechanisms available in South Korea to hold violative South Korean Kaesong corporations accountable. The South Korean Constitutional Court should entertain a constitutional petition from the North Korean workers. Such petition will compel the South Korean government to recognize the North Korean workers’ rights under the South Korean Constitution and hold violative South Korean corporations at Kaesong accountable through stricter regulations and sanctions. Practical and procedural obstacles hinder Kaesong workers from pursuing relief in the South Korean Constitutional Court. First, the North Korean government bars the workers from leaving North Korea. Second, the South Korean Constitutional Court bars third parties in South Korea from filing a petition on behalf of the workers. Third, the court has no clear jurisdiction over constitutional claims brought by North Korean workers in North Korea. Fourth, the court bars suit under pseudonyms, leaving potential petitioners vulnerable to retaliatory employment action. Given these impediments, the Constitutional Court and the South Korean legislature should look to international developments in procedural law that facilitate transnational rights litigation. The court and legislature should adopt new court procedures that permit foreign petitioners physically absent in the jurisdiction to file in the Constitutional Court. Further, the South Korean government and South Korean shareholders of Kaesong corporations should take measures outside the courts to hold the corporations accountable.

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