ITF leaders witness Korea’s persecution of trade unionists and demand justice

Global union leaders witnessed the sentencing of the latest union leader to be unjustly tried in South Korea, and pledged their support for the country’s trade unions in the face of ongoing persecution.


Cho Sung-deok, vice-president of ITF union the KPTU (Korean Public Service and Transport Workers' Union), was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment on 26 July in relation to his involvement in the mass people’s mobilisation on 14 November 2015. Five other trade unionists from the KPTU and the KCTU union centre (Korean Confederation of Trade Unions) were recently sentenced on similar charges, including Han Sang-gyun, KCTU president, who was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. Read more at

The top-level mission of ITF president Paddy Crumlin, general secretary Steve Cotton and assistant general secretary Rob Johnston was in the Seoul court to demonstrate global solidarity for unions in their fightback against the crackdowns on trade union activity.

At a press conference outside the court immediately after Mr Sung-deok’s sentencing, Mr Cotton said: “Together with Korea’s trade unions and the global unions we will fight this sentence and the culture of persecution that it reveals, all the way. We will not let the democratic labour movement in Korea be punished for their legitimate opposition to the government's planned labour reforms.

“Transport workers and their unions are helping to lead the resistance and will do all they can to win justice, including potential strikes in rail and road transport later this year. They have the admiration and guaranteed support of the entire ITF worldwide.”

Local unions commented that the Seoul courts had completely ignored both the grave concerns expressed by the United Nations Human Rights Council and the international community over these violations and petitions by the international labour movement calling for Mr Sung-deok’s release.

Jyrki Raina, general secretary of IndustriALL Global Union; Rosa Pavanelli, general secretary of PSI (Public Services International); and Ambet Yuson, general secretary of BWI (Building and Wood Workers’ International) have added their voices to the demands for justice.

The court yet again failed to criticise the police for their use of massive and overwhelming force against the peaceful marchers at the mass mobilisation. Read more at

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