15 January 2014 – There was widespread condemnation yesterday as Korean trade union leaders attempted to make a dignified surrender to police – despite violent police intervention.
13 Korean Railway Workers Union (KRWU) leaders surrendered to police on 14 January, charged with having led what was a legitimate and lawful industrial action. Their dignified surrender was delayed by police action outside the headquarters of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU).
The president of the ITF-affiliated KRWU, Myoung hwan Kim, said yesterday: “The rail strike last year was a completely legitimate and legal struggle. The past precedents of denouncing workers’ legitimate strikes as illegal, repressing them and enacting disciplinary measures must not be repeated”.
ITF president Paddy Crumlin called the move ‘joke justice’, defending the legitimacy of the Korean workers’ action, and describing the arrests as politically motivated, unfounded, and discriminatory. He called on the government to drop charges immediately to retain credibility.
The news came less than a week after unions and not-for-profit organisations the world over showed their support for Korean workers’ rights. Activists in countries including Australia, Greece, the Philippines and the UK took part in rallies last Thursday 9 January, to coincide with a one-day general strike mass rallies in Korea. Further worldwide solidarity actions are likely, with Korean unions planning further mass protests on 28 February.
There will be a joint International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)/Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC) mission in Seoul from 17-20 January, and it is anticipated that ITF’s legal team will be joining the mission along with Public Services International (PSI).