ITUC-Asia Pacific raises alarm over the arrest of KCTU leader shortly after ILO Conventions entered into force in Korea

Press Statement
May 2022
United Nations
Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, Republic of Korea, Freedom of Association, Right to Strike

The ITUC-Asia Pacific is seriously alarmed over the arrest of Korean Confederation of Trade Unions’ (KCTU) first vice-president Youn Taeg-gun for his role in organising the general strike on 20 October 2021. His arrest happened immediately after the warrant was issued to him by the Seoul Central District Court and nearly eight months since the arrest and detention of the KCTU President Yang Kyeung-soo.

It can be recalled that on 20 October 2021, KCTU members donned Squid Game costumes and staged a strike to urge the government to respect workers’ fundamental labour rights, address inequalities, ensure a Just Transition, provide employment for the youth, and guarantee safe and healthy workplaces. Despite the unionists’ proper observance of the COVID-19 protocols during the demonstration, the police alleged Youn Taeg-gun to be in violation of the Infectious Disease Control Act on Demonstration and Assembly, the same charge filed against the KCTU President in September 2021.

“We are outraged over the arrest of KCTU first vice-president Youn Taeg-gun. To hear this news just three weeks after the ILO Conventions 87 and 98 entered into force in the Republic of Korea is quite alarming. Indeed, this incident is not a great start for the Korean government to demonstrate its serious commitment and fulfilment of duty to protect the workers’ freedom of association, including their right to strike,” Shoya Yoshida, General Secretary of the ITUC-Asia Pacific, said.

“The charges against Youn Taeg-gun are unjust and they must be dropped immediately. The pandemic must not be used to curtail the rights of the workers. Rather, the government must listen to the voices and demands of the workers who have suffered enough from the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. More than ever, now is the time for the government of Korea to uphold the spirit of ILO Conventions 87 and 98, which it rightly ratified last year,” Shoya Yoshida added.

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