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Updated: 18.12.2012 15:51
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Haftbefehle gegen den gesamten KCTU Vorstand und die Metallgewerkschaft

Die Volksbewegung gegen das Abkommen über Fleischimporte aus den USA hat die neue südkoreanische Regierung schwer getroffen. Der Gewerkschaftsbund KCTU und die ihm angehörende Metallgewerkschaft hatten Anfang Juli 2008 zum Streik gegen dieses Abkommen aufgerufen und diesen auch erfolgreich organisiert. Jetzt gehen landesweit die Staatsanwaltschaften gegen den Gewerkchaftsbund vor: Es habe sich, wie die Regierung sagt, um einen illegalen politischen Streik gehandelt. Der gesamte Vorstand des KCTU und auch der Metaller werden mit Haftbefehlen überzogen, der Sitz des Gewerkschaftsbundes von der Polizei umstellt. Die Pressemitteilung "Calling for Solidarity - Lee Myung-bak government repression against the KCTU and Fundamental Trade Union Rights" des KCTU vom 4. August 2008.

Calling for Solidarity - Lee Myung-bak government repression against the KCTU and Fundamental Trade Union Rights

Solidarity Greetings from KCTU!

We are writing to you to call for solidarity to protest South Korean Lee Myung-bak government repression against the KCTU and fundamental trade union rights.


In the midst of mass candlelight protests calling for renegotiations of the April 18th Protocol on importation of US beef, KCTU decided to go into general strike on July 2 calling for protection of people's right to health and renegotiation of April 18 Protocol to reflect food safety concerns. The Korean Metal Workers' Union (KMWU) played a leading role in the general strike. The prosecutor and the Ministry of Labor declared the July 2nd strike clearly illegal, and even before the launch of strike, on June 30th, the 66 senior prosecutors called an urgent meeting at which it called the general strike a 'political strike' and announced they would pursue investigations against law-breakers.  

The prosecutor filed for arrest warrants against and has pursued the arrest of the leadership of KCTU, KMWU and Hyundai Motor Branch on the grounds of 'obstruction of business' provision in section 314 of the Penal Code. They include Mr. Lee Suk-haeng(KCTU President), Ms. Jin Young-ok(KCTU First Vice-president), Mr. Lee Yong-shik(KCTU General Secretary), Mr. Jung Gab-deuk(KMWU President), Mr. Nam Taek-gyu(KMWU First Vice-president) and all 6 of the top elected officers of the Hyundai Motor Branch(Mr. Yoon Hae-mo, Mr. Kim Tae-gon, Kim Jong-il, Mr. Jung Chang-bong, Mr. Joo In-koo, Mr. Jo Chang-min), which had participated actively in the strike. Search warrants for the houses of all those with arrest warrants were also issued.  

Since the arrest warrants for the KCTU leaders were issued on July 24 until present, hundreds of police have surrounded the KCTU headquarters building, stopping and searching all of those who enter the building. Then on July 27, the police arrested the First Vice President Jin Young-ok in downtown Seoul, while she was on her way to meet her family. After the arrest warrants were issued, police began a concealed watch outside the KCTU leaders' houses and thus were able to follow the First Vice President's husband and arrest her. She is now detained in the Youngdeungpo Police Station.  

The South Korean Government's violent repression of the candlelight protest has been severe enough to attract the criticism of Amnesty International.(please see the attached document.) It is this government that has not hesitated to encircled and blocked the entrance to the KCTU building, carry out illegal searches and as if this wasn't enough, carry out such human rights violations as the surveillance of and following of the KCTU leadership's family members  

In short, the government agencies' argument that the July 2nd general strike was illegal is based on the logic that the declared aims of the general strike, those are renegotiation of April 18 protocol on US beef importation and achievement of national industry-level collective bargaining, were not related to wages or working conditions, and deficiency of procedural requirements. However, KCTU would like to make it clear that not only is there no logical or legal basis for calling the July 2nd general strike illegal, this stipulation is in fact an extension of the government's anti-labor policies.  

Legality of KCTU General Strike

When KCTU called for general strike on July 2nd, renegotiation of the April 18 Protocol on US beef import to reflect food safety concerns was declared as one of priorities of strike aims. The Ministry of Labor and prosecutor explained that this was the main reason that it was illegal. This is a repetition of the South Korean government's very narrow interpretation that the only legal aims of strikes be related to wages and working conditions.

The typical positions with regards to judging the legality of a strike based in relation to its aims can be summarized as the followings, 1) the aims should be limited to concluding a collective agreement concerning wages and working conditions and 2) industrial actions to improve workers' socioeconomic status are included as just and legal strikes. The international labor standards that the ILO has put forth have always supported the latter position.  

Actually, according to the 1996 ILO Committee on Freedom of Association Digest, para 527, it celarly stipulates that "Organizations responsible for defending workers' socio-economic and occupational interests should be able to use strike action to support their position in the search for solutions to problems posed by major social and economic policy trends which have a direct impact on their members and on workers in general, in particular as regards employment, social protection and standards of living."

As compared to the past, today the socioeconomic status of workers is much more related to national legislation and directives and is much more directly affected by international trade agreements and a wide range of other state processes. Not only the improvement of workers' socioeconomic status, but also their working conditions can be directly and indirectly affected by the actions of states. Under these conditions, the workers' representatives right to participate in the field of national decision-making should be protected, but when it is not, the right of workers to carry out collective action in order to achieve their socioeconomic interest must be guaranteed.

And also it should be noted that the International Trade Union movement and many other national unions work on trade issues on a permanent basis and have a strong policy on health and safety, including food safety. Therefore, there is good reason for the KCTU to be involved in the trade agreements including April 18 protocol on US beef importation. The right to strike stipulated not only in international labor standards but also the South Korean Constitution has to be positively interpreted to guarantee the right of workers to carry out collective actions for the sake of these interests.      

Repression against KMWU

The Ministry of Justice and the prosecutor concluded that KMWU's strike on July 2nd was illegal because it followed the KCTU's calling for a general strike in relation to the demand for renegotiation of April 18 Protocol on US beef importation. In other words, it is the Ministry of Labor and prosecutor's position that KMWU went on strike in accordance with its mother alliance's directive, and therefore that the aim of the KMWU strike should be judge based on the aim of the KCTU strike.  

Since last April, KMWU has carried out negotiations with employers demanding national-level industrial collective bargaining and, in order to achieve this demand, went on strike as a means to pressure the employers. As such, on June 20th KMWU made an application for arbitration to the National Labor Relation Committee and before this, from June 10th to 14th carried out a strike vote during which the majority of union members voted in favor of a strike, thus following legal labor dispute procedures.

While follow these legal procedures, KMWU went on strike not only in response to the KCTU's recommendation for a strike on July 2nd but afterwards has been carrying out a strike to achieve its demand for national-level industrial collective bargaining. Despite this fact, the Ministry of Labor and the prosecutor have based their judgment of the legality of the labor dispute action sole on the demand at one particular point in time. Labor dispute actions, as actions meant to pressure the employer, can normally not only employ diverse measures, but also can involved the repeated starting and stopping of a strike, moving forward in a complicated manner over a long period of time. When during the course of a strike for a wage agreement repression is carried out against some of the members, the strike might then continue to be carried out with the demand of stopping the repression. If judgement of the legality of a strike on the basis of one demand at a particular moment, without regard to the process of the labor dispute action as a whole were to become the norm in fact almost all labor dispute actions would have to be considered illegal.  

In short, KMWU should be seen as having carried out the strike on July 2 in accordance with the KCTU general strike directive after having been in negotiation with employers, deciding to carry out a labor dispute action in order to meet those demands and completing mediation and other measures.    

The stipulation of the Hyundai Motors Branch strike as illegal and the application for arrest warrants for and efforts to arrest the President of the Branch and other officers have also to be noted. The Ministry of Labor and the prosecutor labeled the Hyundai Motors Branch's strike clearly illegal because it was carried out while proper negotiations were not underway. However the problem with this is that the Hyundai Motors Branch is not in the position to decide on carry out a strike on its own. Since 2006 when the organizational structure was change to that of a branch of KMWU not only has it had the status of a branch of a unitary labor union, according the KMWU regulations, branches and other lower organizations do not have the authority to carry out independent labor dispute actions. This is because the authority to strike, negotiate and conclude agreements is granted solely to the national headquarter of KMWU.

Calling for Solidarity

We believe that "fundamental objective of the trade union movement should be to ensure the development of the social and economic well-being of all workers". And it should be noted that wider socio-economic issues related to globalization affect directly or indirectly social and economic conditions of workers.

KCTU general strike on July 2nd was aimed at renegotiation of April 18 protocol on US beef import, stopping privatization and marketization of public services, opposition to the plan of building Korea Grand Canal, and taking appropriate measures to solve the soaring consumer prices. We believe that these issues are clearly related to social and economic well-being of workers and their families so as to be the aims of industrial actions.

The ILO strongly urges that no one should receive criminal sanction or be deprived of their freedom for the fact of simply exercising the right to strike. And in particular, the ILO has recommended continuously that South Korean government "adopt a general practice of investigation without detention of workers and bring section 314 of the Penal Code (obstruction of business) in line with freedom of association principles."

In addition, the concluding observations of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on May 21, 2001 stated as follows :

"20. The Committee is also concerned that the laws governing industrial actions are not transparent and appear to give the authorities inordinate discretion in determining the legality of strikes. In this regard, it considers entirely unacceptable the approach taken to criminalize strike activities. In addition, the Committee is deeply disturbed by the excessive force used by the police against recent labour demonstrations that had been set off by massive lay-offs. The Committee considers the combined effect of these circumstances to be a clear negation of the rights provided for in article 8 of the Covenant."(E/C.12/1/Add.59)

The large-scale repression being carried out against KCTU right now is, more than ever, proceeding in an irrational manner. Arrest warrants have been issued for the President, First Vice president and General Secretary as well as the leaders of member organizations of KCTU in relation to the strike and there is even a threat of invasion of the KCTU headquarter building in order to arrest those for whom warrants have been issued. It is clear that this serious repression will lead industrial relations into a downward spiral from which it will be highly difficult to escape.

We therefore call for your solidarity to protest the South Korean government repression against the KCTU and fundamental trade union rights.

KCTU Demands

1. The South Korean government should immediately stop repression against the KCTU and its affiliates leadership

2. The South Korean government should release the detainees and call off arrest warants without delay

3. The South Korean government should respect fundamental trade union rights including right to strike

4. The South Korean government should fully implement numerous recommendations from ILO Committee on Freedom of Association(CFA) starting with "adoption of a general practice of investigation without detention of workers and bringing section 314 of the Penal Code (obstruction of business) in line with freedom of association principles".

5. The South Korean government should guarantee fully freedom of assembly and people's right to dissent


1. We are calling for sending protest letters to the President Lee Myung-bak at the Blue House, +82-2-770-1690 or 4735(Fax) or e-mail at president@cwd.go.kr or foreign@president.go.kr . Copies should be sent to the Police Commissioner of Korean National Police Agency, Mr. Eo Cheong-soo by cnpa100@police.go.kr

Please be sure to send a copy to KCTU by +82-2-2635-1134(fax) or e-mail at inter@kctu.org

2. We are also calling for organizing every possible form of protest in solidarity with the KCTU and candle light movements in your local areas such as protesting or having a press conference in front of the Korean embassy or consulate office. If so, please be sure to send information and photos to KCTU, inter@kctu.org


1. KCTU and its affileates leaders with arrest warrants

Mr. Lee Suk-haeng, President, KCTU
Mr. Lee Yong-shik, General Secretary, KCTU
Mr. Jung Gab-deuk, President, KMWU
Mr. Nam Taek-gyu, First Vice-president, KMWU
Mr. Yoon Hae-mo, President, Hyundai Motor Branch
Mr. Kim Tae-gon, First Vice-president, Hyundai Motor Branch
Mr. Kim Jong-il, Vice-president, Hyundai Motor Branch
Mr. Jung Chang-bong, Vice-president, Hyundai Motor Branch
Mr. Joo In-koo, Vice-president, Hyundai Motor Branch
Mr. Jo Chang-min, Secretary,Hyundai Motor Branch

2. Detainee from KCTU related to July 2nd general strike

Ms. Jin Yeong-ok, First Vice-president, KCTU

3. Social and People's movements Activists with Arrest Warrants related to candlelight demonstration

Bak Won-suk, Joint Director of the Field Office of the Coalition
Han Yong-jin, Joint Director of the Field Office of the Coalition
Kim Dong-kyu, Director of the Organizational Team
Kim Kwang-il, Director of the March Team, All Together Steer Committee member
Baek Eun-jong, Vice-Representative, Anti-Lee Myung-bak Internet Café
Baek Seong-gyun, Representative, MichinCow.net
Kwon Hae-jin, Director of Education Movement Headquarters of the Young Korean Academy

4. Detainees from Social and People's movements related to candlelight demonstration

Ahn Jin-geol, Director of Organizational Team
Yoon Hui-suk, Volunteer Staff
Hwang Sun-won, Volunteer Staff

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