Stop suppressing democracy and basic labor rights right now

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The KCTUs position over the May 16th massive arrest

 

Democracy and human rights are in retreat in South Korea. With extreme violent acts, the Korean government and the police are tramping upon democracy, human rights and basic labor rights. The May 15th massive arrest in Daejeon was an intended violence' of the police to mask oppression on labor unions taken by the government and management of Korea Express, a major logistics company. Despite the emergency intervention of the ILO and the criticism from the international community, the government has ignored them and continuously resorted to forceful measures. We strongly denounce the Lee Myeong-bak Administration on its oppression on labor unions.

 

On May 16th at a workers' rally in Daejeon alone, as many as 486 union members were arrested, which was the largest number since the inauguration of the Lee administration. In addition, more than 100 people were injured. It was the government and the police that caused the clash. If a peaceful march had been secured, the conflict would not have occurred. The police blocked the peaceful march and provoked protesters. Then the police arrested them with an excuse of a clash that followed. All people wearing a raincoat or a union vest were arrested indiscriminately even after the rally was finished. Some people were arrested at the expressway exit, restaurants or even sidewalks. It was not legitimate law enforcement but a revengeful act.

 

Many arrestees complained of their suffering from being beaten with batons and shields, but the police did not provide emergency medicine with them properly. Most people wearing wet clothes stayed the night on the floor of police stations or in a hall of the buildings without any single blanket. People who were severely injured were forced to make a confession statement before getting treatment. Even a prisoner of war would not have been treated in this way. It was an outright violation of human rights, which could only be seen under the dictatorial regime in the past.

 

It is regrettable that the protesters clashed with the police. Both the police and protesters got injuries and their vehicles damaged. Behind the collision, however, are the president's anti-labor policies. The confrontation was caused after Korea Express Inc. broke a collective agreement on 30-won increase in transportation fee. Rather than reflecting on its behavior, the company now insists that they will not negotiate with the Cargo Transportation Workers' Union (CTWU). The company dared to do so because the government has continuously taken anti-labor stance. The government does not recognize a union of specially-employed workers like truckers. The ILO has been deeply concerned over the Korean government's attitude and recently declared to intervene in this matter.

 

The ILO's May 4th letter informed us that the organization accepted our request to intervene in the Korean government's order. The government had ordered the Korea Transport Workers Union and the Korea Construction Workers Union to voluntarily deprive workers in special employment such as ready mixed concrete-carrying truck, dump truck and freight drivers of the union membership and had threatened to cancel the registration of the unions if they did not follow the order. The ILO's intervention means that the government's order and threats to labor union constitute severe violation of labor rights. The denial of rights has become the subject of derision in the international community to the extent that the intervention' was carried out by the ILO. The government's outrageous oppression on labor unions led to the death of Park Jong-tae, the freight trucker unions Gwanju branch leader, and the May 16th violence.

 

The KCTU has considered a series of recent events as the government's attack on democracy, basic labor rights and human rights. We will take proper measures against it. We warn the government that if the pending issues which drove Park to death are not solved, we will launch mass strikes. In addition, we will conduct joint struggles to defend democracy with human rights, civic, social organization as well as progressive political parties.

 

The KCTU urge the government to change its view on labor policies. We also ask for the resignation of chief of the National Police Agency and a direct apology of the president for the massive arrest. We want to make it clear that if our requests are not accepted, we will have no choice but intensify our struggle and the whole blame will fall on the government.

 

May 18th, 2009

 

Korea Confederation of Trade Unions

 

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