Some 64 IndustriALL Global Union affiliates from all regions of the world have sent protest letters to the President of South Korea condemning the criminal charges brought against the leader of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), Han Sang-gyun.
Sang-gyun, who is due to be sentenced on 4 July, is facing an eight-year prison sentence recommended by the state prosecutor. He has been indicted for charges related to his participation in a number of rallies against anti-worker labour law reforms. These include the obstruction of public duty, destruction of public goods, obstruction of traffic and hosting an assembly at a banned location.
IndustriALL’s general secretary, Jyrki Raina, said: “We deplore the fact that all the charges against him are related to legitimate and peaceful trade union activities in his capacity as a union leader. Unfortunately, Han is not the only trade unionist facing criminal persecution for his union activities. We know of nearly 600 trade union leaders and members who were arrested for their participation in recent protests with 20 of them held in custody and seven still in jail, while another 13 were convicted and sentenced from eight months to one-and-half years in prison.”
In December 2015, IndustriALL's Executive Committee in Phnom Penh passed a resolution calling to support unions in South Korea fighting back against government crackdown. Some IndustriALL affiliates have also sought meetings with the South Korean embassy in their country, while others have been outreaching to their own country’s embassy in South Korea. IndustriALL and other Global Union Federations are acting together to protest against the sentence for Sang-gyun.
In March this year, IndustriALL led an international trade union delegation to South Korea in solidarity with unions in the country whose leaders have been imprisoned, offices invaded and rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression have been under attack.
In his letter to President Park of Korea, Raina added: “We urge your government to drop all charges against Han Sang-gyun and other trade unionists for actions undertaken as part of their peaceful and legitimate trade union activities. Moreover, we call on you to review the national legal framework in consultation with trade union and civil society organizations in order to prevent such abuses in the future.”