Rights' violations reported in Korean National Assembly

25.06.2011

During his visit to the National Assembly of Korea as part of a numerous delegation of trade unions and progressive political parties IMF Assistant General Secretary, Fernando Lopes reported about increasing workers' rights abuses in Korea.

KOREA: On June 24 the IMF Assistant General Secretary, Fernando Lopes, joined a delegation that visited the National Assembly to report about recent, extensive violence against trade unions in Korea. The delegation was composed of the leadership of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), Korean Metal Workers' Union (KMWU) affiliated both to KCTU and IMF, as well as MPs from Democratic Labour Party of Korea, New Progressive Party, and leaders of the Korean Professors' Union, National Association of Professors for a Democratic Society and Korean Progressive Academy Council. All members of the delegation signed the resolution about labour repressions in Korea adopted by the IMF.

At the press conference after the event at the National Assembly of Korea in Seoul Lopes and other members of the delegation expressed serious concerns over increasing cases of repression against workers in Korea. 

The speakers referred to cases of violence against workers at Yuseong Piston Ring factory, where the management had hired thugs who used steel pipes and fire extinguishers to prevent workers from entering the illegally locked out factory. Another case concerned Hanjin Heavy Industry, where workers had staged protests against unfair dismissals. In both cases the Government used police riot forces against peaceful protests of workers instead of trying to find a fair solution.

Earlier in June workers at the factory Yuseong Piston Ring, a key Hyundai Motor supplier, decided to go on strike, in compliance with legal requirements. However, before the action actually started, the management imposed a lock-out, alleging the workers' action was illegal. The Government mobilized riot police to violently dissolve the workers' peaceful sit-in protest against the employers illegal decision. Later, even after the workers officially announced the end of the strike, the employer continued the lock-out and hired thugs to prevent workers from entering the factory.

Another example of excessive violence against workers at Hanjin Heavy Industry has been reported on the IMF website. In February 2010 the management at Hanjin Heavy Industry shipbuilding yard signed an agreement with the union not to dismiss workers. The following December, 400 workers were fired in violation of the agreement.

In response to the unfair dismissals the Hanjin workers went on strike. The company replied with a lockout, which is still ongoing. To protest, Kim Jinsook, member of the KCTU advisory committee, started an aerial protest action on a company crane; the protest has already gone on for 170 days. 

Despite numerous appeals of the local KMWU union, including with the support of 700 citizens and an oppositional political party and finally through the Parliamentary subcommittee on Labour and Environmental Affairs to settle the conflict and to reinstate the dismissed workers, the company management never showed any good will to seek for a solution. 

Read the text of the IMF Resolution on Labour Repression in Korea here.