LabourNet Germany Dies ist das LabourNet Archiv!!! Aktuelle Meldungen im neuen LabourNet Germany

Home Über uns Suchen Termine


Statement issued by the KPSU - 18.6.01

Something's amiss in Korea. A President who's gaining notoriety for union repression received the Nobel Peace Prize, but workers fighting for their just demands are at the top of police wanted lists.

Government's Full-Scale Attack on Trade Unions In the wake of a continuing nationwide strike launched by 50,000 KCTU members, the Supreme Public Prosecutor's Office is busy issuing a string of arrest warrants for dozens of key union leaders. Last Friday at 4h30 in the morning, 30-40 plainclothes police were deployed to KCTU headquarters for a search and seizure operation and to arrest KCTU president DAN Byung-Ho. They were met by KCTU members, and eventually withdrew 2 hours later after determining that president DAN was not in the office. Later in the afternoon at 17h00, police raided the office of the Korean Air Flight Crew Union and confiscated union documents. In the past several days, police have continued making or threatening attempts to arrest president DAN, including laying wait for him at a KCTU press conference and standing guard outside KCTU headquarters.

As the strike continues in its seventh day, the SPPO has issued warrants for the KCTU president DAN, general secretary LEE Hong-Woo, and executive director of external relations SHIN Hyun-Hoon; KPSU president YANG Kyung-Kyu; 3 hospital union branch presidents (CHOI Su-Nim, CHOI Kwon-Jong, LEE Bong-Neon); and a host of other KCTU leaders. Already, the KCTU's executive director of organizing and disputes SHIN Un-Sik was arrested on June 12, the first day of the strike. Another 8 unionists were arrested the same day when helicopters and special forces violently stormed a tower where Hyosung nylon factory workers were holding a sit-in occupation.

Saturday the KCTU's director of external relations PARK Ha-Soon was arrested during a mass People's Rally of 7,000 KCTU members and organizational allies from all sectors of society. The SPPO issued warrants for 14 leaders of the KAL Flight Crew Union, who voluntarily presented themselves to the police at 14h00 Friday. All 14 were subjected to questioning. Of these, 9 were released late the next night and another Sunday night; but 4, including the union president, had formal charges filed against them and will continue to be detained pending trial. In addition to all these, a number of union leaders have been summoned for police questioning as the government intensifies its maneuvers to repress the labor movement.

The KCTU interprets the recent attack as the government's attempt to incapacitate the strongest forces opposing neoliberal structural adjustment, to the favor of business circles and foreign capital. Starting with an extra-ordinary National Assembly session in June, by eliminating opposition, the government intends to pass a special structural adjustment law, rollback labor laws to increase contingency work and flexible employment and wages, and privatize mainstay public enterprises, such as the national railroad, by the end of the year.


Reading Between the Lines

So this is what the Korean government calls "sincere dialogue"? In the case of the KALFCU, the company was never interested in good-faith bargaining. Management made calculated plans to destroy the fledgling union, as was revealed when a confidential document was leaked to the union. The document outlined schemes for twisting any strike into an illegal one, and thus to fabricate justification for jailing the leaders and immobilizing the union. The KALFCU's main demands were for union representation in committees related to air safety and for an end to the vast wage discrimination between Korean and foreign pilots. These demands were basically calling for actual implementation of last year's collective agreement, which management had refused to abide by. Even when the union appealed to the Central Labor Relations Commission for adjustment, it was twice rejected and ordered to continue negotiations indefinitely, though Korean Air management was already proven to have acted in bad faith. This left no option to the union, and clearly aggravated an already bad labor-management relationship.

On the media end, President KIM Dae-Jung has repeatedly made speeches criticizing the general strike, hyping up the so-called "illegality" and distorting the main issues. As exposed through the case of Korean Air and common in Korean industrial relations, employers and government make it nearly impossible for any union to undertake a "legal" strike. When workers go on strike anyway, the government vows "stern measures to deal with illegal strikes" as an excuse for putting union leaders out of commission. The government has announced that it plans to revise the labor laws to include airlines in the category of "essential public services" subject to forced arbitration. In effect, this will strip airline workers of their right to collective action, conveniently making any future "legal" strikes impossible.

KIM Dae-Jung also claimed now was "not the time" for a strike because the country is suffering a severe drought. The Korean Confederation of Farmers Leagues issued a statement calling on the government to stop using the drought as an excuse for manipulating public opinion and repressing the strike, and denounced the government for its efforts to divide workers and farmers who are together fighting against neoliberal globalization and for the right to live. With a touch of irony, the only clear connection between the strike and the drought was that 2 long-awaited days of rain corresponded to the 2 days of the pilots' strike. On the day the strike ended, the rain stopped.

International Criticism of KIM Dae-Jung's "New Labor-Management Culture" Already this year alone, and the year is only half over, 113 workers have been jailed for their union activities. By jailing 552 trade unionists in just 3 1/2 years, KIM Dae-Jung has far outpaced former President KIM Young-Sam's record of 507 trade unionists in 5 years, and KIM Young-Sam was certainly no contender for a peace prize.

Can President KIM Dae-Jung convince an international community concerned with workers' rights that systematically imprisoning core union leaders and provoking unions' prolonged distrust of employers and the government makes for a healthy "new labor-management culture"?


Please send letters of protest to KIM Dae-Jung and the Supreme Public Prosecutor's Office, with copies to KPSU.

Sample Letter

The right to strike is a fundamental right for all workers!

[Name of organization] is aware that your government is launching a repressive attack on trade unions that are rightfully opposing neoliberal structural adjustment -- the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), Korean Federation of Transportation, Public and Social Services Workers' Unions (KPSU), Korean Air Flight Crew Union (KALFCU), Korean Health and Medical Workers' Union (KHMWU), and the list goes on.

The Korean government's abuse of laws on "obstruction of business," forced arbitration in "essential public services," etc., for the purpose of jailing union leaders, is inviting the criticism of those concerned with human rights and workers' rights around the world.

We call your attention to recommendations already made by the ILO's Committee on Freedom of Association: - to amend the list of essential public services contained in section 71 of the Trade Union and Labor Relations Adjustment Act (TULRAA) so that the right to strike is prohibited only in essential services in the strict sense of the term. - noting that the legal definition of the infraction of "obstruction of business" under section 314 of the Penal Code is so wide as to encompass practically all activities related to strikes, requests the Government to bring this provision in line with the narrower interpretation given to it by the Supreme Court as well as with freedom of association principles.

We demand that you respect workers' rights and immediately cease your attack on trade unions. Release all detained trade unionists and drop all charges being made against them.

Sincerely, [Your name, organization, and position]


Fax: +82-2-497-0444
Korean Federation of Transportation, Public & Social Services Workers' Unions, KPSU
Ko-Yung Building, 2nd Floor
301-28, Sungsu 2-ga 3-dong, Sungdong-gu
Seoul, 133-123, KOREA
Tel: +82 2 497 7888
Fax: +82 2 497 0444

LabourNet Germany:
LabourNet Germany: Treffpunkt für Ungehorsame, mit und ohne Job, basisnah, gesellschaftskritisch
The virtual meeting place of the left in the unions and in the workplace