Trade Union Leader in South Korea Sentenced to Five Years

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Han Sang Gyun of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (in headband) ended a 24-day standoff at a Buddhist temple one day after that the police entered the temple grounds.

The regime in south Korea have once again showed its true colours of fascism by jailing Han Sang Gyun, leader of the 800,000 members strong Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) to five years in prison. The initial arrest was very arbitrary, where Mr. Han faced up to 10 years in prison for organising demonstrations in south Korea against the south Korea’s president Park Geun Hye’s labour law reforms that would result in wage-cuts for older employees, a rise of the pension age in public services, an extension of irregular working contracts to four years and to more industries amongst others. These measures are only one in a series of attacks against the living-standard of the working class of south Korea. The court convicted Han of eight out of eight counts against him, stemming from traffic and public-safety violations in connection with about 12 unauthorised rallies and protests he or the KCTU called since 2012.

 

Of course nobody would be sentenced to a long prison sentence for lighter traffic violations, but when it comes to Han Sang Gyun’s sentencing, it is nothing more than for the south Korean regime to demonstrate their power over the oppressed masses of south Korea. By sentencing Mr. Han to five years in prison, the south Korean government have declared a war, not only against the people of south Korea, but have launched an attack against the trade union movement globally. MR. Han was on the run from the regime due to his activism, but stayed active for the cause of the workers during that period as a trade union leader. During last years massive protests, he appeared in front of the crowd to hold a public speech but had to disappear before the police could catch him. Before surrendering to the police, he had taken refuge in Buddhist temple in Seoul, from November 14 until December 10. At first several monks refused the police entry to the temple but one day after the police finally entered the temple grounds and surrounded the building where Mr. Han was staying, the labor leader turned himself in.

In December 2014 Han was elected KCTU president in the first-ever non-delegate, direct vote in 19-year long history of KCTU. He was also the first president elected on a pledge to organize a general strike. “They [the government and business owners] were aiming to annihilate the KCTU, and we had little option but to fight back,” Han said in court June 13, explaining why he had run.

The discontent and anger against the government has long been growing and more and more voices call for the resignation of Park Geun Hye. The demonstrations and strikes of last year are not the first ones since the daughter of former military dictator Park Chung Hee took office in 2012. Over the last few years, there have been several scandals surrounding the ruling party as well as harsh attacks on the living standard of the working class. As the south Korean regime is planning privatizations and cuts in several sectors, including health and education, any resistance and protest by the workers is met with harsh repression by the government: trade unionist leaders are frequently sentenced to jail and met with heavy fines. The members of the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union (KTU), the trade union of progressive teachers, as well as public service unions, have been outlawed. Han Sang Gyun was someone who publicly stood up for the working people and trade union rights, and that is why he was seen as a threat that had to be disposed by the authoritarian regime of Park Geun Hye.

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