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  Issue No 51 Official Organ of LaborNet 28 April 2000  




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Dawn Raid to Arrest Korean Union Leaders

Riot police have broken into the office of the Daewoo Motors Workers Union in Pupyung, near Seoul, and taken union leaders into custody for the "crime" of leading a militant struggle to save the jobs of Korean auto workers.


The Korean Council of Trade Unions has issued the following statement:

The KCTU in its written intervention to the meeting of the OECD's Employment, Labour, and Social Affairs Committee on April 13, 2000 devoted to monitoring the industrial relations reform of the Korean government, pointed out that "the fact that there are only seven trade unionists held in prison currently should not and could not hide the fact that this very government had put more than 300 workers in prison."

It went on to warn that "as the workers are beginning to build up their collective bargaining campaign and workers try to influence the way in which key industry -- such as the automobile industry -- should be restructured, the government is making loud threats of arrest. Already the government has issued warrants of arrest against many trade unionist."

The KCTU premonition is, sadly, coming true. 03:40 April 25, 2000, more than 100 battle-geared police raided the office of the Daewoo Motors Workers Union in Pupyung near Seoul. They captured everyone in the union office.

The 20 trade union leaders and activists had made the union office their temporary home for the duration of the continuing campaign to shape the outcome of the restructuring of the ill company.

The morning raid is seen as a signal of the government attitude towards the demands of the automobile industry workers to set up a special taskforce composed of the representatives of the workers, company, creditor banks, the government, and experts and other interested stakeholders to undertake a comprehensive examination and discussion on the best way to rescue the troubled Daewoo Motors.

The trade union took a step back from the original position of immediate and unconditional end to the plan to sell the second largest car-maker to an overseas operator. The government responded that it was not willing to participate in kind of consultation and joint decision making process with the trade union movement.

The recalcitrant position of the government led to the April 6 strike by automobile industry workers in the four major car makers that lasted for 7 days.

In response to the strike, the government -- through its Public Prosecutors Office -- issued arrest warrants against 34 leaders and activists. It was only a matter of time, it was wide anticipated, before the government would begin to move in.

Of the 20 people dragged away by police, 13 low-ranking activists were released, but 7 leading unionists are held by police, expected to be charged and kept in detention.

The seven unionists, including the union president CHOO Young-ho are

LEE Nam-mok Vice-President

CHANG Soon-kil Organising Director

KIM Jo-hyun Industrial Action Director

BOK Jae-hyun rank and file member

YOO Young-ku Sports Activities Director

LEE Bong-yong Industrial Health and Safety Director

Vice-President Lee and Sports Activities Director YOO are expected to be charged for their part in organising a protest public meeting in front of the Central Office of the ruling Millenium Democratic Party before the April 6 strike. The rest, including President Choo had been wanted for arrest, with warrants issued out on them. With their arrest, 11 activists are remaining from the original list of Daewoo workers with arrest warrants. Key unionists from Hyundai Motors Workers Union - - including President Jeung Kap-deuk -- and others involved in the current automobile workers' campaign are also wanted for arrest.

The early morning raid on the Daewoo Motors Workers Union is a clear indication of the intention of the government to sweep away what it regards as a thorn -- or an obstacle -- in its best plans for restructuring.

KCTU in its written intervention at the OECD-ELSAC meeting called on the members not to be satisfied with the half-hearted adherence to international standards by the Korean government which feels it justified to overlook them in times of 'economic crisis' or in pursuing 'structural adjustment'.

What the Korean government overlooks is the fact that while removing trade union 'opposition' may make the structural adjustment process easier in the short term, but it will certainly sour the industrial relations endangering the long-term confidence.

But, the Korean government, feeling that it had achieved what it had hoped for in the OECD-ELSAC meeting, and feeling confident that everything can be justified in the name of "pushing ahead with restructuring", has began a calculated assault on the trade unions.

The Korean government led by President Kim Dae Jung perhaps believes that it has earned time - 18 to 24 months -- to sweep away all the problems and also have all the unionists released from prison in time for the next review process.

The opportunistic cynicism of the Korean government has been the key reason for the continuing industrial relations problems in Korea. This, together with bureaucratic missionary zeal, has created an oppressive and repressive environment.

President Kim, in the summit meeting with the leader of the opposition party, on April 24, referred to the actions of workers to present their views and demands as "illegal collective self-interest" and that his government will deal with them "sternly".

The expression of the -- what we feel to be valid -- concerns and fears about the impact of crisis and restructuring are regarded as obstacles or willful interference of standing in the way of realising some pure general interest or will pursued by the government.

We are beginning to see the story about to be repeated over the Daewoo Motors issue and the mounting pressure of the the KCTU May Campaign. Stay ready to with your usual protest letters.


*    Visit Labourstart for the latest from Korea

*   View entire issue - print all of the articles!

*   Issue 51 contents

In this issue
*  Interview: Wrestling With Reith
CPSU national secretary Wendy Caird has faced the full force of Peter Reith's attack on the federal public sector. The good news is she's still fighting.
*  Unions: The Organiser
As the nature of working life changes fundamentally, union organisers like Sally are taking up the challenge and changing too.
*  Safety: Remembering the Fallen
NSW Industrial Relations Minister Jeff Shaw's keynote address to mark the International Day of Mourning for Deaths in the Workplace.
*  History: May Day Connections
May Day as a modern working class celebration and commemoration began from the 1886 events in Chicago where workers were demonstrating for an eight hour day. But the day already had special significance for working people before then.
*  Women: Swelling the Ranks
Jenny Wright wears the honour of being the nation's first pregnant wharfie modestly. But it's not all clear sailing for this trailblazer.
*  International: Dawn Raid to Arrest Korean Union Leaders
Riot police have broken into the office of the Daewoo Motors Workers Union in Pupyung, near Seoul, and taken union leaders into custody for the "crime" of leading a militant struggle to save the jobs of Korean auto workers.
*  Satire: Angry Star City Staff Strike it Unlucky
Gamblers panicked when they discovered they were locked out of the Casino when 1800 workers walked out.
*  Review: The World of Wobbly Window Cleaners
A new book 'Reshaping the Labour Market' shines the spotlight on the impact of labour market deregulation.

»  Government to Outsource Staff Relations
»  Dial-A-Contract Hits Call Centres
»  Reith Loses Plot Over 'Bad Bargaining' Bible
»  Prayer for the Fallen Marks International Day
»  Entitlement Time-Bomb Still Ticking
»  No Joy for Southern Picket
»  Union Fighter Shapes Up For Casino Workers
»  Stopped Clock Starts Ticking at Sydney Water
»  Telstra Tangle Over 'Honest Rob'
»  A Week of May Days
»  Big Drum Up for East Timor!
»  Pick a Pollie - the Truth Revealed

»  The Soapbox
»  The Locker Room
»  Trades Hall
»  Tool Shed

Letters to the editor
»  SOCOG Makes Another Meal Of It
»  Seeking Unionists With Blues
»  Is Red Ken So Clean?

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