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Extremely urgent action:

Korean trade union leader denied sanctuary in church

There's an extraordinary story developing in Seoul, South Korea where in the last 24 hours we've reported on the decision by the local priests in the city's main cathedral to expell Dan Byung-ho, the leader of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, who has been living in a tent on the cathedral's grounds since June 30th, seeking asylum.

The cathedral is entirely surrounded by police who eagerly await getting Mr. Dan into their hands. He is, they say, a wanted criminal. His crime: organizing "illegal" strikes.

I should emphasize: Dan Byung-ho is not accused of violence, or terrorism, or all the usual things authoritarian regimes throw at trade unionists and leftists. His crime consists of doing his job as a trade union leader. In South Korea, unions are simply not allowed to use the strike weapon as they would in any other free society.

The denial of sanctuary by the Myongdong Cathredral is a very serious matter -- and sets a dangerous precedent.

Dan Byung-ho has until the end of the month to pack up his tent and surrender to the police.

The denial of sanctuary by an institution which traditionally provided sanctuary to democratic rights activists is outrageous. It should be condemned not only by trade unionists, but by human rights activists and members of the clergy as well.

I think it would be fantastic if we could mobilize a global campaign to focus attention on anti-union repression in South Korea.

So here's my suggestion:

Let's get trade unions, churches and other institutions around the world to say that they'd welcome a great fighter for workers' rights like Dan Byung-ho into their buildings. Wouldn't it be great if we could have signs hanging on the front doors of churches and trade union offices everywhere -- and not only in South Korea -- saying "Dan Byung-ho welcome here"?

Obviously we'd have to explain a bit more than that, but you get the point.

There would be no point in doing any of this if Mr. Dan the other activists in the KCTU don't know about. Tell them what you are doing and ask for other suggestions for solidarity actions by writing directly to their International Secretary at .

Eric Lee, LabourStart

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