As 13 Korean Railway Workers Union (KRWU) trade union leaders charged with having led what was a legitimate and lawful industrial action made a dignified surrender to police today, the ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) blasted the political vendetta behind their arrest. Their placing themselves in the hands of police today was delayed by violent police intervention at the headquarters of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU).
Speaking at a press conference at the KCTU building this morning, Myoung hwan Kim, president of the ITF-affiliated KRWU, said: “The rail strike last year was a completely legitimate and legal struggle. The past precedents of denouncing workers’ legitimate strikes as illegal, repressing them and enacting disciplinary measures must not be repeated. This will be proven in court in due course.”
ITF president Paddy Crumlin said: “This is joke justice. The dignified action by these trade unionists should not obscure the ludicrous nature of what they’re charged with and the police’s behaviour today. KRWU members voted, openly and democratically, to strike to protect Korean Railways against potentially disastrous privatisation.
"They were charged with obstructing business, their offices were raided, their members are at threat of dismissal and the union is being targeted for damages. The charges are politically motivated, unfounded and discriminatory, and cannot be allowed to go unchallenged. They must be dropped immediately if the government is to retain any credibility.”
ITF acting general secretary Steve Cotton commented: “The victimisation of the KRWU reflects badly on the government and has unified opinion in Korea against such heavy handed aggression. It has led to a massive response by the Korean people, building up to a potential general strike on 25 February, and an outpouring of support for the unions within Korea and beyond.”
He continued: “The police have had to release trade union leaders detained on similar charges before after the KRWU challenged the legality of their detention. They should save time and avoid this travesty of justice by letting the KRWU leadership go free now and ceasing the persecution of lawful trade unionism in Korea.”
For more details of the strikes and the international support click here.