Friday 24 June marks 100 days since 41-year-old Han Kwang-ho (pictured), a union organizer at a Hyundai auto part supplier in South Korea, took his own life.
Han, an elected union official for a branch of IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, the Korean Metal Workers’ Union (KMWU), suffered five years of intimidation, repression and attacks in retaliation for his trade union activities at YooSung Enterprise, a key supplier for Hyundai Motor Company.
In January this year, evidence revealed that Hyundai conspired with YooSung Enterprise and labour management-consulting firm, Changjo, to crush the union at the factory. Their extensive and aggressive anti-union campaign began in 2011 and continues to this day.
Just days before he took his own life, Han received yet another summons for questioning from YooSung prior to a disciplinary committee. It was just one of the many ways the company retaliated against him for his legitimate trade union activities at the plant. Between July and December 2013, YooSung filed 11 charges against Han with the police. When he killed himself, two bogus criminal charges against him were still pending.
YooSung’s ongoing anti-union campaign has included: establishing a management-friendly union; degrading and discriminatory disciplinary measures against union members; filing criminal and civil lawsuits against union activists; and routinely monitoring and observing union members.
The treatment of KMWU workers at YooSung’s plant became so poor that a mental health survey showed that 43 per cent were at high risk of serious depression, compared to the general population in South Korea of 7 per cent.
According to documents obtained in a separate investigation by the Korean labour ministry in January 2016, Hyundai Motor Company received daily reports of the union-busting activity at YooSung and held regular meetings with YooSung’s CEO and management from Changjo consulting.
Korean unions say Hyundai has led union busting campaigns at major suppliers including Valeo ESK, Bosch Electrical Drives, Continental, Mando and Sang-shin Break.
Union leaders and representatives from KMWU will be holding a memorial ceremony for Han in front of the Hyundai-Kia Motors head office in Seoul on Friday 24 June to commemorate 100 days since his death.
Demand #JusticeForHan and please sign the LabourStart petition calling on Hyundai to stop union busting at Hyundai suppliers.