On Monday Han Sang Gyun, president of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), was sentenced to five years in prison by the Seoul Central District. The sentence followed allegations from the government related to a series of peaceful protest against a regressive labour reform last year - including a rally where police attacked 100,000 demonstrators with water cannons and tear gas in November.
“We are outraged by the five-year sentence given to Han Sang Gyun whose only crime appears to be fighting for trade union rights and workers’ rights in a country that is moving closer to an era of dictatorship where political democracy and freedoms such as the freedom of association, freedom of assembly and freedom of the press are disappearing at a rapid pace. We call for his immediate release,” stated Ambet Yuson, General Secretary of BWI.
Criminal charges have been launched against a total of 585 KCTU leaders and members have faced criminal charges after the protests last year, 20 of whom are in custody and seven facing indictment. Further, following the protests 15 members of the tower crane division of the Korean Construction Workers Union affiliated to BWI’s affiliate in South Korea, the KFCITU have been sentenced to 8 months to 3 years for engaging on legitimate collective bargaining negotiations.
"Instead of listening to people's concerns the government seems to have declared war against the trade union movement and people who speak up for their rights. The South Korean government must drop all charges against those arrested for taking part in the protests and review their legal framework so that people's democratic freedoms are protected," said Ambet Yuson.
He continued, “We need the international community to act against the crackdown against democracy and workers’ rights in South Korea and encourage all our affiliates to do what they can to support Korean labour movement in this difficult time."