PRESS RELEASE: Global unions in solidarity with Korean workers’ fight for democracy

14 November 2016 09:16

A high-level delegation of global union leaders is joining demonstrations taking place tomorrow in South Korea to protest against the brutal crackdown on democratic rights and the criminalisation of trade union activity by the government of President Park Geun-hye They will also back calls for the resignation of President Park, who is enmeshed in a huge corruption scandal.    

The delegation includes the general secretary of the Building and Wood Workers’ International Ambet Yuson, and Valter Sanches, general secretary of IndustriALL, as well as ITF’s assistant general secretary Rob Johnston and leaders from the International Trade Union Confederation, the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD, and the International Union of Foodworkers together with US and European trade union representatives. UNI Global Union regional staff will also attend.    

The Park government launched a brutal assault on trade unions, democratic protest and basic civil liberties last November. Since then, six trade unionists have been sentenced to prison and two are still awaiting trial. The Korean unions are fighting government plans to accelerate privatisation, further casualise the workforce and introduce a performance pay system that is discriminatory and divisive.    

Mr Sanches stated: “Trade unions across the world strongly believe that the attack on South Korea’s unions is symptomatic of a deeper crisis of democracy, which is characterised by the collusion between the government, corporations and the rich, in the pursuit of private profit.”    

Mr Yuson added: “This scandal that has revealed decades of corruption and cronyism calls into question Park Geun-hye’s right to rule and vindicates the Korean workers’ fight against regressive labour reforms and trade union imprisonments.”    

As well as attending rallies and meeting parliamentarians, the delegation met today with imprisoned trade unionists including Han Sang-gyun of the KCTU, Lee Jong-hwa of the KFCITU, and Cho Sung-deok of the KPTU to express solidarity and the commitment of the global trade union movement to aggressively campaign for their immediate release. 

Mr Johnston commented: “This is the second international union mission to Korea that I've been privileged to be part of in recent months. Etched on my mind from the last visit is the unjust sentencing of union leaders, including KCTU President Han and KPTU Vice-President Cho; now Park Won-ho of KPTU Trucksol is also in jail. When these sentences happened we told the world about them - and we will continue to expose what is happening here. We will challenge the Korean government’s continuing and failed attempts to crush the union movement here. The fantastic fight back by Korean trade unionists has galvanised opinion. We are here this week to ensure that the world trade union movement both witnesses and resists the government’s desire to break the spirit of Korean workers."    

IUF Regional Secretary for Asia/Pacific Hidayat Greenfield said “The IUF is here to show our active solidarity with trade unions fighting the government’s escalating attacks on trade union rights and basic civil liberties. Trade unionists are being condemned to prison for opposing casualisation, defending the right to strike and opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Together with our members in Korea, the Asia/Pacific region and around the world we demand that the government be held accountable for these ongoing human rights violations”. 

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