Police forces in riot suppression gear and with fire trucks surrounded the national headquarters of the KCTU, the biggest confederation of trade unions in South Korea to arrest the KCTU President
The President of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions YANG, Kyeung Soo was arrested at 6:09am on September 1st in a surprise ambush involving police squadrons in riot suppression gear and fire trucks surrounding the confederation headquarters at 5:00 am and violating the union premises at 5:30 am.
The authorities have pre-emptively arrested the president of South Korea’s largest trade union confederation to lock him up under pre-trial detention while they investigate into his supposed crimes which they allege are:
obstruction of general traffic through demonstration
violation of Act on Assembly and Demonstration and
acts relating to infectious disease control
This raiding of the trade union headquarters comes ahead of a general strike/work stoppage KCTU is organizing for October.
Though authorities do not say they aim to intimidate workers or dissuade legitimate trade union activities, certainly actions speak louder than words. Former UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Assembly and Association Maina Kia wrote on this in Korea, “Charging assembly participants with certain criminal offenses, such a the general obstruction of traffic, de facto criminalizes the right to peaceful assembly. … The choice to prosecute at all, and even more to charge participants with the serious offence of general obstruction of traffic, conveys a desire by the authorities to discourage assemblies on roads.
The Special Rapporteur reiterates that assemblies are an equally legitimate use of public space as commercial activity or the movement of vehicles and pedestrian traffic.” Thus, the arrest of the confederation president via storming the headquarters with police conveys the impression they wish to dissuade workers from continued protests about the ongoing employment crisis and safety and health at work crisis.
The alleged crimes for which KCTU President YANG was arrested relate to a protest rally unions held on 3rd July.
Amid continuing industrial disasters and dismissals forcing the pains of the pandemic-related crises onto working people, the 3rd July rally demanded a “Moratorium on Dismissals” and urgent action and rights to protect lives and livelihoods.
However, bringing charges relating to infectious disease control and insinuating that the people should blame trade unions for the 4th covid19 wave and for the frustrations of the pandemic are unscrupulous scapegoating.
The truth is that no new coronavirus case were linked whatsoever to participation at that 3 July rally calling for a moratorium on dismissals and implementation of safety and health at work.
Trade unions are being scapegoated and blamed for the government’s coronavirus containment and vaccination rollout problems ahead of the 9 March presidential elections.
Indeed, the “Seoul Police Agency Investigation Headquarters into the 3rd July Illegal Demonstration” with a staff of 52 people dedicated to pinning charges on trade unionists according to newspaper reports at the time KMWU (Autoworkers) President KIM Ho Gyu submitted to their interrogation — had already questioned KCTU President YANG on 8 July and again in a 5-hour interrogation session on 4 August.
In short, there is no need for them to lock up the KCTU president under pre-trial detention, much less to storm the confederation headquarters ahead of the October general strike.
Brother YANG, who is a member of the KMWU through the Kia irregular workers’ local