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Outrage at sentencing of Korean union leader

6 July, 2016IndustriALL Global Union has expressed outrage at the five-year sentence handed down to Korean union leader Han Sang-gyun by a Seoul Central District Court on 4 July.

Sang-gyun, president of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), was sentenced after being charged with offences relating to a series of anti-government demonstrations, including the massive People’s Rally in November last year.

IndustriALL’s general secretary, Jyrki Raina, said:

We wholeheartedly object to the outrageous sentence imposed upon Han Sang-gyun, who has been persecuted for carrying out his legitimate union activities. Government, big business and the judiciary are complicit in the wide-scale persecution of trade unions in South Korea.  The sentence is a blow to democracy and an axe to the freedom of peaceful assembly in the country. We join the international labour movement in demanding his immediate release and call for all charges against Han Sang-gyun to be dropped.

Sang-gyun became a government target after tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Seoul on 14 November protesting against the proposed labour reform by President Park Geun-hye. Some 20,000 police were mobilized at the demonstration and tear gas and water cannon were used against demonstrators.

After the rally, Sang-gyun took refuge in the Jogye Temple until he finally surrendered to police o n 10 December.

Han Sang-gyun as one of the organizers of the rally was held responsible for the violent actions of a minority of the demonstrators.

Over 60 IndustriALL affiliates wrote to President Park ahead of the sentencing protesting against the charges brought against Han Sang-gyun. In March this year, IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan led an international delegation of trade union leaders to Korea to show support for the union struggle in the country.

In reaction to the sentencing KCTU said the ruling “will go down in history for trampling democracy, human rights and labour.”

Speaking after the verdict, Han Sang-gyun said: "I am not guilty as long as you comrades believe so. The repression by the current government is much more severe and more deliberate. We have to be prepared to fight back."

KCTU plans to appeal the decision.