Labor crackdown in Seoul: Transport Union fights police raid

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South Korean police raided the national offices of the Korean Federation of Public Services and Transport Workers Union (KPTU) on Friday but were thwarted by workers and union members. The raid is part of a broad crackdown on organized labor by the government of Park Guen-Hye, in preparation for a major labor protest scheduled for November 14 in which 150,000 workers are expected to flood the streets of Seoul. The KPTU is part of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), which was organized in the 1980s after quasi-democracy was restored in South Korea after decades of dictatorship. 

Here’s the story, as reported today by Voice of the People, an independent media site in South Korea (in Korean). Thanks to Hyun Lee of NoDutDol in New York City for the quick translation.

Alleging criminal charges against the Korean Federation of Public Services and Transport Workers Union (KPTU) in relation to the ongoing aerial protest by members of the Pulmuone branch of the Cargo Workers Union, the police attempted to raid the KPTU headquarters on November 6.

Thwarted by union members who resisted the raid, the police from the Yeongdeungpo precinct of Seoul instead raided the office of the Cargo Workers Union of KPTU on charges of obstructing government administration and violating the Law on Assembly and Demonstration.  The raid began at 10 am on November 6 and lasted approximately 2 hours.

The police allege that on October 24, when members of the Pulmuone branch of the Cargo Workers Union, Yeon Je-bok (age 48) and Yu In-jong (age 43), began their aerial protest on a billboard tower on Yeouigyo 2 bridge, 4 men suspected of being union members “assaulted” a police officer by making him kneel and taking away his walkie-talkie.

The police explained that it suspects that the union premeditated the action and that it carried out the raid to gather evidence.  In addition to a search warrant, the police also obtained arrest warrants for 12 members of the union on November 4.

The police first attempted to raid the KPTU office, but the union refused to allow the search and engaged in a physical scuffle with the police.  The police ultimately abandoned its original plan and instead confiscated documents and a computer hard drive from the office of the Cargo Workers Union.

One male in his 40s was arrested in the process on charges of obstructing government administration.

KPTU spokesperson Park Jun-hyeong called the police raid an “excessive action aimed at union repression.”  “The attempt to raid the entire KPTU headquarters in response to the aerial protest of its affiliated union is an excessive action aimed at intimidating and undermining union activity,” he said. “To obtain arrest and search warrants and raid the union office even though there is no evidence that the assailant was a member of the union is clearly an act of retaliation against the union.”

The Pulmuone drivers have been on strike since September to demand that the company carry out its agreement to respect the union and continue negotiations to improve conditions; stop union repression; recognize the Cargo Workers Union; and guarantee workers compensation.  As the strike dragged on with no response from the company, union members Yeon Je-bok and Yu In-jong began their aerial protest on top of a 30-meter billboard tower in Yeouido on October 24.


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