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IndustriALL condemns crackdown on Korean unions

23 November, 2015IndustriALL Global Union has written to the President of Korea to condemn numerous police raids on trade union offices at the weekend. 

More than 2,000 police were reportedly employed to search eight different union premises including the headquarters and Seoul offices of IndustriALL affiliate the Korean Metal Workers' Union (KMWU).

During the raids on Saturday 21 November, police with warrants seized computers, equipment and internal documents from union offices.  

Police also swooped on the offices of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions and several affiliates, and arrested unionists.

The raids come just a week after tens of thousands of Koreans took to the streets to protest against government plans to change labour laws, which would make it easier for the country’s powerful conglomerates to fire workers and reduce wages.  

People also demonstrated against government plans to replace all independent history books in schools with government-issued texts. President Park Geun-hye is the daughter of the military dictator that ruled Korea from 1961 to 1979 and many see the policy as an attempt to rewrite the past under her father’s reign. 

At the same time, trade union suppression in Korea is increasing and several trade unionists have been arrested in recent weeks. Korean authorities routinely ignore serious violations of trade union and human rights, siding with the huge industrial businesses or ‘chaebols’ that dominate the country.

KMWU affiliates representing sub-contractor workers at the world’s biggest shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) were in Geneva last week to sound the alarm at the number of deaths at Hyundai’s Korean shipyards.

Even though the courts have ruled that HHI has committed unfair labour practices, the government has been turning a blind eye to the HHI abuses.  

Jyrki Raina, IndustriALL general secretary, said:

The police raids on trade unions are wrong and completely undemocratic. President Park is taking Korea backwards to the dictatorial era of the past. Clamping down on trade unions will only fuel public distrust and worker frustration. We applaud our Korean affiliates for standing up against the planned regressive labour reforms, and we’ll do everything we can to support this important struggle.

Join the protest against the Korean government's crackdown on trade unions and sign the LabourStart campaign. Click here to write to demand intervention from the administration of President Park, Guen-hye.