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Korean metalworkers demand reforms and respect of their rights

30 May, 2017Three thousand members from Korean Metal Workers Union rallied on 24 May in front of the Korean National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, calling for the enactment of a chaebol reform bill, a special act on developing the manufacturing base”, and a bill to ban union busting, wrapping up a series of rallies throughout the country in support for these three reforms.

Local union leaders and members gathered in Seoul to hold pre-rally demonstrations in front of the Korean Development Bank, the Export-Import Bank of Korea, Hyundai Kia Motor corporate headquarters in Yangjae-dong, Seoul, and KB AutoTech (Kabwool) corporate headquarters in Seoul before amassing in front of the National Assembly to call on the Moon Jae-in government to enact the three reform bills.

The protesters also marched to the Party Headquarters of the Minjoo Party (Democratic Party of Korea), the Liberty Korea Party, and the People’s Party to deliver letters calling on the parties to enact the three reform bills.

In the opening speech at the demonstration, KMWU President KIM Sang gu stated: 

“There was a flurry of expectations of a changed world after the election of President Moon Jae-in; however, the lives of workers have not changed at all. The aerial sit-in protest of precarious shipbuilding workers continues, and the YPR (Yoosung Piston Rings) and KB Autotech (Kabwool) workers are still fighting union busting...Though the government has changed, our struggles continue."

The union leader referred to the exploitation by large-family owned business conglomerates, known as chaebols, of supply-chain workers and union busting at suppliers like YPR (Yoosung) and KB Autotech (Kabwool) used to reap easy profits. Kim Sang gu demanded to look at the root source of all existing problems and put an end to the exploitative Chaebol structure.

The trade union leader pointed that newly-elected President Moon faces countless areas that need reform but the top priority must be chaebols.

In April, the KMWU carried out a several regional demonstrations demanding reform, which took place in Ulsan, Daegu, Busan, Cheongju, Incheon, Changwon and Cheonan.

In a letter to the new Korean leader, Valter Sanches, IndustriALL General Secretary, congratulated President Moon Jae-in on his election and said: 

“The Korean unions affiliated to IndustriALL have jointly called on your new government to reverse the accumulated abuses of the old regime. We wholeheartedly agree with our Korean affiliates that reform of the chaebol and a ban on union-busting activities committed by chaebol conglomerates in collusion with the previous government are central to this reform, and IndustriALL and its affiliated unions worldwide have been standing in solidarity with the Korean unions on these issues for years.”

While on a mission of solidarity to South Korea, the International Trade Union Confederation General Secretary Sharan Burrow paid a visit to Han Sang-gyun, president of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions imprisoned for three years on politically motivated charges.

Delivering a message of hope from Han Sang-gyun Burrow said: 

At the end of the candlelight revolution both the leader of the union and the corrupt president are in jail, but while one is embittered the other is full of hope for a new era of rights, just wages, corporate reform and decent work for Korean people.”