ITUC-Asia Pacific condemns the violent attacks against trade unionists and urges the Korean government to immediately release the detained FKTU union officials

Press Statement
Jun 2023
United Nations
Republic of Korea, Federation of Korean Trade Unions, Trade Union Repression, POSCO

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)-Asia Pacific strongly condemns the recent police brutality and arrest of union officials during a high-altitude sit-in protest by the POSCO subcontractor union and urges the government of Korea to immediately release the detained union officials.

On 31 May, Korean police violently suppressed Mr. KIM Junyoung, General Secretary of the Federation of Korean Metalworkers’ Trade Unions (FKMTU) affiliated to the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU), by hitting him dozens of times with police batons and shields. He was forcibly taken away and detained, covered in blood. This took place while he was staging a high-altitude sit-in protest to demand POSCO, the prime contractor, to put an end to unfair labor practices against subcontracted workers and engage in good faith negotiations. In addition to Mr. KIM Junyoung, another union official was arrested during the same incident.

Prior to this, on 30 May, the police violently knocked down Mr. KIM Manjae, President of the FKMTU, who was also protesting on the ground, smashed his head on the asphalt and handcuffed him from behind. He was then arrested and detained, but was released two days later.

Shoya Yoshida, General Secretary of ITUC-Asia Pacific, said:

“The ITUC-Asia Pacific is gravely concerned with the anti-union behaviour of the Korean government. The Korean government responded with ruthless violence against subcontracted workers and their union, completely ignoring their efforts to seek for peaceful settlement amid POSCO’s failure in implementing a social agreement reached two years ago.”

This case shows that labour repression and anti-union policies of the YOON Sukyeol administration have reached its peak. The incident is part of the government's so-called "establishment of labour-management rule of law" and union-busting policies to advance regressive labour reforms, flexible work hours that completely ignore labour realities, attempts to turn the social dialogue body into a tool of regressive labour reforms, attempts to weaken the Serious Accident Punishment Act, negligence of job insecurity and vulnerable workers, and restructuring scheme of public institutions under the guise of public sector reform.

Shoya Yoshida added:

“We have to make it clear that labour market flexibility and labour market deregulation recklessly pursued in the name of reforms will directly lead to the victimization of millions of unorganised and vulnerable workers as well as workers in micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.”

The ITUC-Asia Pacific calls on the Korean government to take the lead in respecting workers’ rights and establishing constructive industrial relations in line with international labour standards by fully complying with the fundamental conventions of the International Labour Organization (C29, C87 and C98), which it ratified in 2021.

Furthermore, it demands the government of Korea to immediately release Mr. KIM Junyoung and all other detained workers for exercising their fundamental labour rights, fully respect the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining, and immediately cease the violence and repression against workers.

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