Jan. 23  2020
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International Day of Action in Solidarity with Korean Workers

Global Trade Union Movement
Ready to Score a Goal
for the Release of Imprisoned Korean Trade Unionists

Let Us Know What You Are Doing
so that it has an impact on the Korean Government

The preparation for the June 27 International Day of Action for the Release of Imprisoned Trade Unionists in Korea, jointly proposed by the International Metalworkers Federation (IMF) and the Public Services International (PSI), endorsed by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), and supported by the Global Unions, is fully underway. Other Global Union Federations, such as, the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF) and International Federation of Building and Wood Workers (IFBWW) have joined in the campaign, calling on their affiliates to take part in the action.

The KCTU requests all the unions and other groups organising any kind of action, ranging from protest rallies to letter writing, on June 27 as a part of the International Day of Action to inform it of the planned action so that they can be included in its press release, to have the maximum desired impact on the Korean government.

The International Metalworkers Federation has already reported that its affiliates in 20 countries (other than Korea) are taking action. They are: Australia, Germany, India, South Africa, Sweden, USA, Mauritius, Belgium, Japan, France, Mozambique, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Denmark, Switzerland, Ukraine, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Austria. IMF affiliates in Lithuania is organising protest letter to the Korean government, while unions in Indonesia and Brazil are staging protest action outside South Korean embassy and manifestations. Manifestation Public Services International has noted that actions are being organised in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Japan.

The Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL) in the Philippines has announced that it will picket the South Korean embassy in Manila on June 27 at 9:00 AM to protest the continuing trade union repression.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) produced thousands of leaflets and posters about the trade union repression in Korea and the June 27 international day of action. It distributed them to workplaces around the country. AMWU is organising demonstrations in the major cities from Perth to Sydney on June 27. Together with other groups, it will also hold a demonstration at the Korean consulate in Sydney, while the demonstrations elsewhere will be at major Daewoo or Hyundai dealerships. The union has also produced a special leaflet for the Korean community with a plan to distribute at the main hotel where Koreans are expected to gather to watch the World Cup semi-final between Korea and Germany in the June 25 evening. AMWU plans to present a major petition to the consulate which it has gathered from workshops around the country.

The Dutch PSI affiliate, the FNV-ABVAKABO, is known to have sent a letter to Guus Hiddink, the Dutch football coach, who is adopted as a national hero by Koreans as a result of his achievement with the Korean national football team in the World Cup football competition, to raise the issue of imprisonment of trade unionists in his public appearances.

Workers' World Cup Campaign

The June 27 International Day of Action brings to a culmination the World Cup campaign for the release of imprisoned Korean trade unionists launched on May 30 by the Global Unions at the initiative of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions.

The ICFTU issued a press release announcing the Global Unions' "internet-based awareness campaign highlighting the reality of modern South Korea. As part of a wide-ranging Global Unions campaign (, unions around the world will be voicing their discontent about the unionists behind bars who most certainly won't be at the world cup. A day of action will take place on June 27th, when member unions of Public Services International (PSI) and the International Metalworkers' Federation (IMF) across the globe will protest outside their respective Korean embassies and send letters of protest to Korean President, Kim Dae-jung."

The ICFTU produced "Our Team Won't at the World Cup" poster is now available in 15 different languages. The poster has been adopted by a considerable number of union websites, as banners or "pop-up". The site was chosen as the "labour website of the week" by the LabourStart ( "Three of the largest and most powerful international trade union organisations have teamed with the national trade union centres in South Korea to launch this one month long campaign which coincides with the football World Cup. (full citation here)" ICFTU page for "Our Team" is reported to have attracted 20,000 clicks.

Action in Korea

In Korea, the KCTU and its member federations, including the IMF-affiliated KMWF and the PSI affiliated Korean Government Employees Union (KGEU, declared illegal by the Korean government), will join in the global action with a series of programmes starting with a solidarity vigil on the eve of the international day of action.

On the eve of the international day of action, KCTU, KGEU, and the People's Alliance (a broad coalition of people's organisations) will jointly hold a cultural vigil at the Myongdong Cathedral in solidarity with the imprisoned trade unionists. The KCTU will announce the details of the global day of action to the media at a special press conference in the morning of June 27. At 2 p.m., KCTU will join the Family Council for Democratisation (an organisation of the parents and family members of political prisoners) in its Thursday Rally for the Release of Prisoners of Conscience.

The main rally will take place at 3 p.m., June 27, at the Jongmyo Park, downtown Seoul. It will be followed by a march through the main streets of Seoul to the Myongdong Cathedral. Similar rallies will be held in six other cities across the country.

Korean Football Team is Not the Only One Rising

The rise of the Korean national football team in the World Cup competition is more than matched by the increase in the number of imprisoned trade unionists.

The 32 trade unionists held in jail at the time of the launching of the Global Unions' "Our Team Won't Be at the World Cup" campaign has increased to 52 (as of June 26). The number will continue to increase as 70 other unionists are waiting at the sidelines wanted for arrest.

While unionists currently held in prison stands at 52, the total number of unionists arrested imprisoned this year is nearing the century mark, standing at 92. The latest arrest, that of Ms. Lee Mi-ja, the secretary of Ulsan Hospital Branch of the Korean Medical and Health Industry Workers Union, on June 2, brings the total number of unionists imprisoned under the Nobel Peace Prize laureate President Kim Dae Jung to 778.

Korean unionists sidelined in prisons:

Dan Byung-ho, KCTU president
Jeong Yong-cheon, chairperson, Korean Government Employees Union (KGEU) - Central government branch
Lee Kyung-soo, chairperson, KCTU Choongnam Regional Council
Bang Hyo-hoon, organising director, KCTU Choongnam Regional Council
Lee Seok-haeng, former vice-president, Korean Metal Workers Federation (KMWF)
Han Seok-ho, organising director, KMWF
Kim Seong-gahp, Daewoo Motors, KMWF
Kim Il-seup, president, Daewoo Motors, KMWF
Kim Jeong-gohn, president Daewoo Shipyard, KMWF
Oh Se-wook, Daewoo Shipyard, KMWF
Kang Bong-woo, Daewoo Shipyard, KMWF
Jeong Byung-kwon, Daewoo Shipyard, KMWF
Lee Min-hyung, Daewoo Shipyard, KMWF
In Young-soo, KMWF Choongnam Branch
Yoon Min-reh, Signetics, KMWF
Im Young-sook, Signetics, KMWF
Lee Jin-seong, Daewoo Motors, KMWF
Yoo Hee-yong, KMWF Choongnam Branch
Kim Jeong-bae, Doosan Electronics, KMWF
Kim Joon-ho, Doosan Electronics, KMWF
Jeong Cheol-woo, Doosan Electronics, KMWF
Noh Yong-joon, Hanjin Heavy Industry, KMWF
Lee Jae-ho, Daewoo Car Sales, KMWF
Han Sang-dae, KT-Contingent Workers Union, Korean Federation of Transportation, Public & Social Service Workers Unions (KPSU)
Shin Tae-bong, National Social Insurance Workers Union, KPSU
Kim Young-joon, National Social Insurance Workers Union, KPSU
Kim Woon-yong, National Social Insurance Workers Union, KPSU
Im Seung-joo, Korean Power Plant Industry Union, KPSU
Oh Seung-soo, Korean Power Plant Industry Union, KPSU
Jeong Yoon-ji, Korean Power Plant Industry Union, KPSU
Cho Joon-seong, Korean Power Plant Industry Union, KPSU
Lee Young-woo, Korean Power Plant Industry Union, KPSU
Kim Soon-seup, Korean Power Plant Industry Union, KPSU
Lee Ho-dong, Korean Power Plant Industry Union, KPSU
Kim Jin-young, Korean Power Plant Industry Union, KPSU
Im Seung-kyu, Seoul Subway Workers Union, KPSU
Yeum Ki-yong, Korean Health and Medical Industry Union-Ulsan Branch, Korean Federation of Hospital Workers Unions (KHMU-KFHWU)
Lee Mi-ja, KHMU Ulsan Branch, KFHWU
Chang Young-jin, Korean Federation of Taxi Workers Union (KFTWU)
Kim Yeun-kyung, KFTWU
Kim Ho-gohn, KFTWU
Choi Choong-koo, KFTWU
Kim Jeong-hee, KFTWU
Min Byung-mo, KFTWU
Jeong Bong-seok, KFTWU
Park Sang-yong, KFTWU
Moon Sang-min, Seoul Clerical Workers Union, Korean Federation of Clerical and Financial Workers Labour Unions (KCFLU)
Kim Kyung-hwan, National Union of Mediaworkers (NUM)
Kim Byung-hak, Taekwang, Korean Chemical and Textile Workers Federation (KCTF)
Kang Seong-cheol, KCTU Dismissed Workers Struggle Committee
Nam Kyu-won, KCTU Dismissed Workers Struggle Committee
Song Soo-keun, KCTU Dimissed Workers Struggle Committee

Some notable unionists wanted for arrest:

Cha Bong-cheon, president, KGEU
Lee Yong-han, general secretary, KGEU
Cha Soo-ryeun, president, KHMU-KFHWU
Kim Chang-keun, president, Korean Metal Workers Union, KMWF
Lee Dong-ik, KCTF Ulsan branch

Imprisonment is only the tip of the ice-berg:

Thousands of other unionists are subjected to other forms of legal action, apart from imprisonment and being wanted for arrest. 1,797 unionists are subject to legal action, summoned to appear before the police for questioning. Some of these unionists may also be issued with warrants of arrest, leading, eventually to imprisonment. Employers have taken court action for damage claims amounting to 125,427,800,000 won for industrial disputes at 32 enterprises. As a result, bank accounts of unions have been frozen by court orders while bank accounts, assets, and wages of individual union leaders and activists have come under court control. A total of 2,560 workers have been subjected to disciplinary action by their employers, ranging from warnings and suspensions to dismissals. 6 leaders of the newly formed Korean Government Employees Union have been served with dismissal orders for their role in the formation of the union. 26 leaders of the Korean Teachers Union are currently dismissed for the various collective action undertaken by their organisation.

Solidarity message from the ICFTU General Secretary

Dear friends,

At a time when the world's eyes are on Korea, it is important that we make known, throughout the world, the repressive treatment suffered by Korean trade unionists.

Over the last month, we, along with our affiliates, and our Global Unions partners, have worked hard to raise awareness of your situation. The world's eyes have been focused not only on the football, but also on the Korean government's repressive policies towards trade unions.

In spite of this, the Korean government has continued to violate the basic human rights of workers, pushing the number of jailed trade union leaders up to over 50!

On this international action day, we offer you our solidarity. Today unions are demonstrating outside Korean embassies and missions all around the world, and the ICFTU is playing its part by sending an international union delegation to join the protest alongside local Belgian unions outside the Korean embassy in Brussels.

We join you in calling for the release of jailed trade unionists.

We appeal to the Korean government to start respecting the fundamental rights of workers to engage in legitimate trade union activity.

The international trade union movement stands with you in your struggle.

In solidarity,

Guy Ryder
General Secretary
International Confederation of Free Trade Unions

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