Korean Union movement’s Fight for Democracy and Workers Rights Get Full International Support
We, participants of the 4th UNI APRO Regional Conference held on Dec 6-8th in Kuala Lumpur, would like to express great concerns about the regressive trend of democracy in Korea. The current government is now pushing anti-labor reforms and violently suppressing democratic labor movement.
At the end of 2014, Korean government announced that it will reshuffle Korean labor market in Chaebol-friendly ways. For example, introducing the wage peak system, if it is legislated,will slash senior workers’ wages as much as the time they have been loyal to the company just in order to recruit more temporary workers. To cite some people’s comments on this policy, it is like ‘taking father’s salaries so that his son can find a part-time job at the McDonald’s”. Also, the government is promoting deregulation on employment to improve ‘competitiveness’ of companies against its foreign competitors which is in fact withdrawing almost every safety net for employees at workplaces. In addition, the reform will leave irregular worker’s fate to “very generous”employers’ discretion which is against the current labor law,stipulating minimum working terms for an irregular worker to be promoted to the permanent position.
The desire for democratic labor movement is now facing serious challenges even these days. The government is not only forcing workers to shoulder the responsibilities for economic crisis by imposing anti-labor reforms as a remedy for economic slowdown, but also suppressing labor movements as a measurement for social security.Especially, Korean government’s attitude towards the People’s Rally held on November 14th in Seoul clearly shows the crisis of democracy in Korea. The police forces blocked protestors from advancing forward by surrounding them with huge riot buses, and fired water cannons which are equipped with deadly chemicals at 130,000 innocent people comprising farmers, workers, and social activists. We are very alarmed to hear that one 68 year-old farmer who was marching at the front line, collapsed from the continuous water cannon assault. He had to undergo a brain surgery and is now in a critical condition. Also, according to Korean affiliates, our Bro. Han Sang-Kyun, president KCTU is still on the wanted-list of the police, and the legitimacy of the Public Servants Union and the Korea Teachers Union is still denied.
The OECD TUAC (Trade Union Advisory Committee) sent its international mission to South Korea last year in the light of the government’s non-compliance with international commitments on labor issues by ILO, OECD, and EU-Korea FTA last year. And even Philip J. Jennings recently sent a letter to Korean president, Park Geun-Hye, urging her to stop those violent actions by police forces and anti-labor reforms.
In this current situation, we would like to call upon the Korean government to meet our following demands:
Immediately release all imprisoned workers and stop the union repression
Open a social dialogue based upon mutual-respect and to hear the voices of workers and farmers
Stop the repression on journalists and guarantee the freedom of speech
Stop all policies that disrupt the democratic movement.
We are all in full international solidarity with the Korean union movement and will continue to support the fight until we achieve victory and justice.
*Bro. Han Sang-Kyun, KCTU president, who was issued an arrest warrant, escaped into the Chogyesa Temple in Seoul and asked the temple authorities for protection from the police since November 16.