ACT NOW for the 15 Korean trade union leaders in jail or on bail
Next Tuesday, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) has called a “People’s Strike” with a range of civil society organisations protesting at the increasing repression of popular opposition in South Korea. The date is the first anniversary of the inauguration of the government of President Park. But organising protests in Korea is becoming increasingly difficult because of President Park’s authoritarian regime. So we’re asking people to show solidarity by emailing the President to demand that the 15 leading trade unionists in jail or on bail for their trade union activities should be freed and have the charges against them dropped.
The “People’s Strike” draws attention to the deterioration of freedoms of association and assembly, and the right to strike, in Korea, as well as the comprehensive breaking of President Park’s election pledges on social protection and labour rights. These are detailed, together with the name of the 15 leading trade unionists in jail or on bail, on the TUC website. Previous protests have included a long-running railway strike against privatisation at the end of last year, and demonstrations about the resulting raids on the KCTU headquarters.
Four of the 15 trade union leaders – from the Korean Railway Workers Union (KRWU) – were bailed earlier this week, having given themselves up to the police in January. The other 11 include some arrested over strikes, others for demonstrations, but all for involvement in their trade unions, meaning that the Korean government has breached the ILO Conventions it is pledged to uphold, and the commitments it made on union freedom when it joined the OECD and signed its free trade agreement with the EU. On all three counts, the global trade union movement is seeking to hold Korea to account.
But the Korean government and employers are doing more than slinging trade union leaders in jail. Employers are seeking astronomical damages from unions that organise strikes, in a clear attempt to bankrupt them. In some cases they have even attempted to sue individual strike leaders, which has forced some to take their own lives. These are not the actions of a mature democracy, and the TUC will be protesting formally to the Korean government on Monday as part of a global union protest.