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ILO: Workers send protest to South Korea, discuss labourrights in China

Workers representatives attending this year's International Labour Organisation Conference in Geneva today sent a strong note of protest to the Government of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) expressing "concern and displeasure" over the violation of workers' rights in the country.


Geneva, June 7 2002 (ACTRAV Info): Workers representatives attending this year's International Labour Organisation Conference in Geneva today sent a strong note of protest to the Government of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) expressing "concern and displeasure" over the violation of workers' rights in the country.

The move came in the form of a strongly-worded resolution adopted by some 500 trade union representatives from over nearly 175 countries attending a private session of the Workers' Group of the tripartite (governments, employers, workers) Conference. Information supplied at the meeting puts at thirty the number of people detained in the Republic of Korea for activities considered by the ILO Workers' Group to be legitimate and in line with internationally-recognized labour standards. Approximately 40 others are on the Korean authorities' 'wanted' list. Among those in jail is Dan Byun-ho President of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU). Last year, 200 people were put in jail for trade union activities, workers' representatives say.

The Workers' Group resolution demands that "the government of the Republic of Korea recognise fundamental workers' rights and unconditionally release all detained trade unionists". It says that the workers' rights situation in the Republic of Korea had deteriorated after the Asian economic crisis of 1997.

China
The situation of labour rights in China was also discussed as the Workers' Group gave the floor to China's independent trade union activist Han Dongfang. "I am speaking for those millions of workers who cannot speak out and organize unions", Mr Han said. He described mounting worker discontent in China where, he said, thousands of workers are being laid off without fair compensation. He also denounced the repression of peaceful demonstrations and the arrest of labour activists. He particularly expressed concern over the fate of 4 labour activists who were arrested in Liao Yang City, Liao Ning Province at the beginning of March during a major protest action. Mr Han Dongfang, who spent 3 years in jail for his union activities in 1989, is now based in Hong Kong. He attends the ILO Conference as part as the delegation from the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU).

The worker member of the Chinese delegation to the conference was also given the floor during the Workers' Group discussion. While she acknowledged occurrences of workers' discontent, she stressed the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) efforts to address the issue of laid off workers and unionise workers in the private sector. She, however, rejected claims that workers were arrested for trade union activities and said that the arrest of workers in Liao Yang City was justified as it was linked to their resorting to violent action.

The International Labour Conference, meeting in Geneva on 2-20 June, is the annual assembly and main decision-making body of the UN's International Labour Organisation (ILO). It is attended by some 3.000 delegates and advisers representing governments, employers' organisations and trade unions from 175 countries.

For more details contact: Luc Demaret (ILO Bureau for Workers' Activities (ACTRAV) Tel: 41 22 799 7233, mobile: + 41 (0)78 794 9684, E-mail: demaret@ilo.org

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