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Korea: victory for unions as President Park is ousted

10 March, 2017IndustriALL Global Union’s affiliates in South Korea today welcomed a decision by the Constitutional Court to oust President Park Geun-hye over her role in a corruption scandal. 

Multiple mass demonstrations, led by IndustriALL affiliates and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), were a key factor in the parliament’s decision to impeach President Park, which was upheld by judges on 10 March.

In the capital Seoul, people gathered outdoors to watch the court proceedings live on large screens and there will be a rally tomorrow in support of the court’s decision.

A spokesperson for IndustriALL affiliate, the Korean Metal Workers’ Union, said:

“After months of weekly massive public protest and a drawn-out court process we are glad the Constitutional Court was unanimous in finalizing the impeachment.”

IndustriALL and its affiliates across the globe have supported Korean unions in their demands to remove Park, whose reign in office saw trade unionists imprisoned, union offices raided, and labour policies attacking worker rights.

In reaction to today’s court decision, IndustriALL’s General Secretary, Valter Sanches, said:

“We congratulate our Korean trade union affiliates who have fought a relentless campaign to have President Park removed. We also extend our thanks to our many affiliates around the world who took action to support our Korean brothers and sisters in their struggle. With Park gone, we urge her successor to immediately release jailed trade unionists and respect labour rights going forward.”  

Trade unions in Korea are calling for reform of the corrupt system of family-owned companies, known as chaebols, that dominate politics and business in the country.   

A spokesperson for the KCTU, said:

“The court’s decision shows that the struggle organized by trade unions was just. KCTU will now appeal to the new government to release all imprisoned trade unionists and uphold Korea’s obligations to international labour standards and labour rights.”

KCTU President, Han Sang-gyun, is serving three years in prison for leading a protest against Park.

Park, as an ordinary citizen can now face criminal charges in relation to the corruption scandal. Samsung, Hyundai, and other powerful Korean conglomerates are accused of paying massive bribes to foundations controlled by Park’s close friend Choi Soon-sil.

IndustriALL has given extensive backing to Korean unions during the Park administration, with numerous solidarity missions. In November 2016, IndustriALL marched with one million Koreans demanding labour rights and democracy, and IndustriALL General Secretary, Valter Sanches, spoke to a crowd of hundreds of thousands in a rally organized by the Korean Metal Workers Union. 

Following a resolution at IndustriALL’s Congress in October 2016, IndustriALL affiliates supported the Korea general strike on 30 November by taking action at Korean embassies and companies, sending protest letters to Park, and showing solidarity for Korean trade unionists on social media.

South Korea now has 60 days to elect a new president.