South Korea: As the world turns its attention to the Winter Olympics in South Korea, a delegation of trade unionists has met with officials at the South Korean embassy to call for an end to the imprisonment and violation of rights of trade unionists.
In 2016, over 585 Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) officers and members were arrested for protesting regressive labour reforms under the former Park Geun-hye government.
The ex-president of the KCTU, Han Sang-gyun, has been imprisoned for nearly two years for exercising his democratic right to freedom of association and peaceful assembly.
And the ex-General Secretary of KCTU, Lee Young-joo, has had criminal charges brought against her for organising the People’s Mass Mobilisation protest in November 2015.
South Korea has a history of systematic abuse of trade unionists with many of its leading companies such as Samsung, LG and Hyundai, involved in union-busting activity. It was included in the International Trade Union Confederation's 2017 Global Rights Index as one of the ten worst countries in the world for working people.
TUC President Sally Hunt said, “The Winter Olympics will be a wonderful showcase of Korean culture. But there’s a dark side to the country for working people. South Korean workers have been arrested and locked up simply for peacefully protesting their right to fair treatment at work.
“The Korean government must recognise the right for workers to organise as trade unions to protect their interests. The world is watching their abuses, and we are demanding justice and freedom for Han Sang-gyun and Lee Young-joo.”