The raids on KPTU and other union offices come just weeks after a People’s Mass Mobilisation drew 70,000 workers to the streets and left one participant, Nam-gi Baek, fighting for his life after police attempted to shut down the demonstration. Several workers were arrested and a warrant has been issued for the President of the KCTU, Han, Sang-Gyun.
The KPTU and other unions have been engaged in a campaign against the government’s proposed labour market reforms, which will lower wages and lead to an increase in precarious work, especially in the public sector.
The administration of President Park, Guen-hye of Korea has repeatedly sought to weaken the rights of workers and their unions since taking office in 2013, including mobilizing police to disrupt protests and to arrest trade union leaders. The ILO has on several occasions condemned the government of Korea for its serious violations of the right to freedom of association and to bargain collectively. Most recently, President Park invoked the threat of international terrorism to denounce protest leaders, suggesting that terrorists could take advantage of protests to launch attacks.
PSI General Secretary, Rosa Pavanelli, says, “PSI and our affiliates stand in solidarity with the workers of South Korea and urges the government to respect the right to freedom of association, including the right to peaceful assembly and to strike.”
Repression of the union movement in South Korea is now at its worst since the military dictatorship ended, and government actions such as these raids are becoming more and more common. PSI addressed a letter directly to the office of President Park Geun-hye calling on her to drop all charges against KTUC President Han, Sang-Gyun, to release all workers detained in the raids, and to withdraw the regressive labour reforms.