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[단독] ILO "강제노동 예외, 제한적 적용돼야…'형사처벌' 상황 우려"

By Lee Jaeeun

Published : March 21, 2024 - 12:17

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국제노동기구 국제노동기구

한국 정부가 전공의들에게 업무개시 명령을 내린 데 이어 형사처벌 가능성을 거론하는 가운데, 국제노동기구(ILO)는 "강제노동금지 예외 상황은 매우 제한적으로 적용돼야한다"며 원칙을 재강조했다.

20일 저녁 ILO는 코리아헤럴드에 '서면 답변'을 보내 현재 한국에서 벌어지고 있는 정부와 전공의 간 갈등 상황을 유의 깊게 바라보고 있다며 이 같이 밝혔다.

ILO는 "우리는 개인이 ILO 측에 제기한 진술이나 불만 사항을 받아들이지 않는다"고 했다. 이는 앞서 대한전공의협의회가 한국 정부의 업무개시명령에 대해 ILO의 강제노동 금지 협약(제29호) 위반이라며 긴급개입을 요청한 데 대한 답변이다.

즉 전공의협의회는 요청 자격이 없어 긴급개입이 불가하며, 그 어떤 공식적 반응도 낼 수 없다는 것이다. ILO에 따르면 개입 요청 자격은 ILO의 노사정 구성원인 정부 또는 국내외 대표적인 노사단체에만 존재한다. ILO는 이를 강조하며 한국에서의 정부-의사간 분쟁에 개입하지 않겠다는 의지를 나타냈다.

하지만 한국 정부가 "업무개시명령은 ILO의 강제노동금지 협약 예외에 해당한다"고 주장하는 것과 관련해 ILO는 "일반적으로"라는 단서를 붙이며 "강제노동 철폐를 위해서는 예외적 상황은 매우 제한적으로 적용돼야한다"고 원칙을 재강조했다.

ILO는 "일반적으로 ILO 감독 기관은 강제 노동 기준의 정기적 검토 과정에서 비상 시에 노동자를 동원할 수 있는 법률은 강제 노동을 없애는 기본 원칙을 의심스럽게 할 정도로 너무 넓게 제정되어서는 안 된다"고 강조했다. 이어 "특히, (노동 징집을) 거부한 사람들이 형사처벌을 받을 수 있는 경우에는 더욱 주의가 필요하다"고 덧붙였다.

앞서 노동부는 지난 14일 자료를 통해 전공의들의 진료 중단은 국민 생존과 안녕을 위협하는 행위이므로 이를 강제하는 건 협약 위반이 아니라고 밝혔다. 당시 노동부는 "정부의 업무개시명령은 국민의 건강과 생존을 보장하기 위한 정당한 조치"라며 "이는 ILO 제29호 협약 2조 2항에서 규정한 강제노동의 적용 제외 요건(인구 전체 또는 일부의 생존, 안녕을 위태롭게 하는 극도로 중대한 상황)에 해당한다"고 주장했다. 또 그동안 정부는 전공의들에게 정당한 사유 없이 업무개시명령을 거부하면 행정 처분이나 형사처벌 대상이 될 수 있다고 강조해왔다.

ILO는 끝으로 양측의 원만하고 평화로운 해결을 당부했다. ILO는 "대한민국이 불안에 떨고 있음을 알고 있다"며 "관련된 모든 당사자들이 폭력적이고 강압적 조치가 아닌 사회적 대화와 국제적으로 인정된 분쟁 해결 방법에 의지해 차이점을 해결하기를 호소한다"고 했다.

한편, ILO는 노동자의 근로 조건 개선 및 지위 향상을 위해 설치된 국제연합(UN) 전문기구다. 앞서 2021년 2월 대한민국 국회는 해당 협약을 비준했다.

[Exclusive] ILO encourages restraint, dialogue to resolve medical crisis

UN agency stresses principle that back-to-work orders should be minimized

The International Labour Organization urged South Korea to resolve the ongoing dispute between the government and doctors through dialogue and refrain from violence or taking coercive measures, amid the continued standoff in the nation's health care sector.

In a written response to The Korea Herald Wednesday night, the United Nations agency, whose goal is to advance social and economic justice by setting international labor standards, stressed that legislation allowing workers to be called up in cases of emergency should not be worded so broadly as to call into question the fundamental principle of the elimination of forced labor, particularly when those who refuse to work face criminal penalties.

While saying it is aware of South Korea's unrest stemming from "a complex dispute between health care workers and the government," the organization said that, since it "has not been formally approached by its constituents in respect of these allegations at this point," it can only appeal to all parties involved to seek to resolve differences through "social dialogue and internationally recognized methods of dispute settlement and to de-escalate tensions by refraining from violence and coercive measures."

The agency also noted that "ILO constituents" refers to governments and representative organizations of workers and employers, but not individuals. "Individuals are advised to raise allegations and pass on relevant information to their workers’ or employers’ organization," it stated.

The ILO's response came two weeks after the Korean Intern and Resident Association, representing more than 10,000 junior doctors working at large hospitals, sent a letter to the ILO, requesting its intervention to block the South Korean government's back-to-work order.

The doctors said that the back-to-work measure violates ILO Convention No. 29, also known as the Forced Labor Convention, which bans any entity from using forced or compulsory labor. The government refuted that its measure to order doctors to return to work fits in a clause stated by the convention that makes an exception for particular situations such as emergencies.

The government has issued an order for striking trainee doctors to return to work, after thousands of trainee doctors walked off their duties at general hospitals nationwide last month in protest of the Yoon Suk Yeol administration's plan to expand the medical school enrollment quota by 2,000 spots per year, saying such collective actions have driven the nation's health care system to the brink of collapse. For not complying with its orders, the government threatened doctors with the suspension of their medical licenses for up to a year, three years in prison or a fine of 30 million won ($22,455).

Stressing its principle that forced labor should be eliminated, however, the ILO said that exceptions to forced labor standards that allow workers to be called up during emergencies should be applied in a limited manner so as not to violate the principle.

"In general terms, the ILO supervisory bodies have consistently held in the course of their regular review of the application of forced labor standards that legislation allowing the call-up of workers in cases of emergency should be worded in terms not so broad as to call into question the fundamental principle of the elimination of forced labor, notably when persons requisitioned who refuse to work are liable to criminal penalties," it said.

The Labor Ministry issued a separate statement on Thursday, citing the ministry's inquiry to the ILO, that "The ILO has determined KIRA is not recognized as either a labor or employer organization eligible to request ILO intervention.

Meanwhile, the government gave a final warning to the striking junior doctors.

"The government will start to suspend their medical licenses next week for those not complying with the government's back-to-work order," Park Min-soo, Second Vice Minister of Health and Welfare, said at a briefing on Thursday.

Despite the fierce protest from doctors, the government on Wednesday announced the regional allocation for 2,000 new slots for students at medical schools across the country, finalizing administrative procedures for the plan it has pushed for months.

There are 40 medical schools across the country -- 27 such institutions outside Greater Seoul, five in Incheon and Gyeonggi Province combined and eight in Seoul. With the government completing the allocation of new seats, medical schools can now begin mapping out their admissions for 2025 -- solidifying a new reality in the field of education, rather than a plan subject to renegotiation.

The Korean Medical Association -- the country’s largest coalition of doctors’ groups with some 140,000 members -- is reportedly mulling a full-scale strike in protest of the decision, according to reports citing health authorities. Medical professors at major universities have also said that they would submit resignations en masse next week. They stressed that until their resignations are accepted, they would minimize seeing outpatient visits and significantly reduce their working hours to no more than 52 hours a week.