South Korea: Release jailed trade unionists, respect workers' rights
The assault on workers' rights in South Korea is intensifying, with more than 20 trade union leaders and members now imprisoned including 7 KCTU leaders and officials namely KCTU President Han Sang-gyun, KPTU vice president Cho, Sung-deok and KPCWU president Lee, Jong-hwa. President Park Guen-hye’s government has been throwing people into prison simply for standing up for workers’ rights.
Currently, the strike of public sector workers against the regressive labour reform and performance based pay system was declared 'illegal' and 9 leaders of Korean Railway Workers Union are accused for the notorious 'obstruction of business'. In order to end the strike, the government is seeking 'emergency arbitration', a practice denounced by the ILO as infringement of freedom of association. The self-employed truck drivers also face criminal and civil charges for a strike they planned.
While the focus of international protest has been mostly on the government itself, the role of Korean business, and especially the shadowy Chaebol conglomerates which dominate the national economy, is coming under the spotlight. A new ITUC/IndustriALL report on Samsung details the lengths to which some Korean employers will go to bust unions and repress workers' rights inside Korea and in international supply chains.
President Park will have to step down at the end of her term in December 2017, and it is crucial to keep up the pressure to break the stranglehold that a few corporations have over the state. A new President should mean a new start for Korea, one where fundamental rights, economic security and safe work for ordinary people are the order of the day. In the coming weeks and months, every bit of pressure on the current regime of President Park will make it that much harder for corporate greed to maintain its grip on one of the world's most significant economies.