Korean President Park Geun-hye is cracking down on dissent, introducing harsh new labour laws, and arresting trade union leaders.

Walton Pantland Asia, Korea, Union busting
Protesters marching to the Presidential House after a rally against government policy in Seoul, South Korea. Credit Ahn Young-Joon/Associated Press

Protesters marching to the Presidential House after a rally against government policy in Seoul, South Korea. Credit Ahn Young-Joon/Associated Press

The Korean government stepped up its assault on trade unions on Saturday with a raid on the offices the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KTCU) and its member unions. Police confiscated computers, documents and other equipment in an attempt to suppress ongoing protests against new labour laws which will push yet more workers into insecure jobs and reduce wages.

This follows a raid by 200 police officers on the offices of a transport union and KTCU affiliate on 6 November as part of industrial dispute. Police raided the office of the KPTU, seizing documents of the union’s Cargo Truckers Solidarity Division (KPTU-TruckSol), whose members transporting products for the food company Pulmone are fighting for union recognition and safe working conditions.

Only protests by union members and officers blocked the police from extending the raid to other KPTU offices and the union secretariat. Arrest warrants were also issued and TrucksSol members taken into custody on November 11.

On November 14, police attempted to arrest KCTU President Han Sang-goon at a press conference prior to using water cannon and pepper spray to attack a mass demonstration in Seoul by unions, farmers and civic groups. The demonstration, the largest in Korea for many years, was organised to protest proposed labour legislation which would facilitate layoffs and expand precarious employment contracts and against the government’s support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The Korean government has created a special taskforce to arrest KCTU President Han Sang-gyun, who has sought sanctuary at the Jogyesa Buddhist Temple in Seoul.

KCTU President Han said,“Today, the government and the police have trampled on the rights of the KCTU and workers in Korea. The anti-democratic, anti-worker policies of the Park Geun-hye government roused the indignation of the working people. We will broaden worker solidarity and fight to stop the regressive labour reform bill which will make it easier for employers to dismiss workers, cut wages and create more precarious employment. These reforms will not create the jobs the government promises but only ensure that all jobs are insecure and poorly-paid. With the ITUC, we will work to build a world where workers and their rights are respected.”

Korean President Park Geun-hye is cracking down on dissent, increasing surveillance, attempting to control social media, and introducing repressive measures, including the new labour law that will make it easier for South Korea’s family-controlled business conglomerates to fire workers.

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Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

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