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2004-10-19 16:34:40
Violent suppression on KGEU Arts & Culture Competition and Union Officials Rally
KGEU Breaking News #1        

13th, October 2004

Violent suppression on KGEU Arts & Culture Competition and Union Officials Rally

On 9th and 10th October, KGEU's Arts & Culture Competition and Union Officials Rally, organized to strengthen its struggle to attain seven improvements to working conditions and the three basic labour rights through a general law, took place at Kunkook University in Seoul. The government and police had already announced that they will stop the rally by blocking unionists from entering the proposed universities and prosecute all the participants.

During the daytime on the 9th, riot police were placed in front of all major universities expected to be the venue of the events, and measures were implemented to prevent the rally from taking place. In the meantime, 1,500 KGEU members, who had scattered all around Seoul, gathered at the subway station near Kunkook University at 9pm, and attempted to enter the university. The police responded violently. In the process, 10 union members were injured and 40 have been detained. The detainees were released 20 hours later, in the evening of the 10th.

Despite the indiscriminate and violent suppression by the police, 1,000 union members managed to enter the university over the police blockade. Those who had entered started the cultural events at 0:30am. Although 18 teams had planned to participate in the Arts & Culture Competition, only 8 teams were able to do so due to the police blockade.

KIM Young-Gil, president of KGEU, said, "Under the name of Bill on Establishment and Operation of Public Officials Trade Union, the government is all the more trying to oppress and control government workers." and stated, "Government workers firmly declare that we will not accept this law. This rally was organized to mobilize resolution of union officials in preparation for the general strike in November." He also mentioned that "It is piteous that the Minister of Government Administration & Government Affairs(MOGAHA) himself would actually go about to declare these cultural events taking place on a Saturday to be illegal." At the end of his speech, he added, "The continuous criminalization and suppression by the government will be challenged by greater resistance from the government workers."

The KGEU, which spent the night of 9th at Kunkook University, held its National Union Officials Rally at 10am the following morning and reaffirmed its determination towards the November general strike. The participants declared that suppression will only bring about stronger resistance and resolved to stand firm and struggle until the government workers fully attain their fundamental rights as workers.

The police tried to block all exits from the university to prevent the workers from coming out in ranks, however, the workers managed to break the police forces. The workers went on to join the National Workers Rally in the afternoon, jointly organized by KCTU and FKTU, which took place in resistance against a legislation to expand irregular labour and to call for irregular workers' rights.

Attitude of the government

The government's hardline stance and its plans to suppress the KGEU are becoming more evident. During the cabinet meeting on 21st September, the Prime Minister declared, "The KGEU is using the name of a trade union, even though it is an illegal organization." and confirmed that it will deal with the workers with an iron fist. The MOGAHA also announced that it will stop the KGEU from forming a struggle fund as well as prosecute those who organize the struggle.

On 9th September, the MOGAHA sent a directive to all local governments and ministries, claiming the struggle fund to be illegal, and announced that "Government bodies should deal strictly with those who organize collection of struggle funds. The government bodies that do otherwise will be appropriately dealt with." Then on the 13th, another directive was sent, ordering government bodies "to strictly punish automatic monthly payment of union fees to KGEU, an illegal organization."

On 8th September, HUH Sung Kwan, Minister of MOGAHA, held a joint press conference with CHOI Ki Moon, Chief of the National Police Agency, to announce their austere plans, including pursue of legal measures against all illegal demonstrations of the KGEU as well as against all participants. They announced that they will ban all rallies and demonstrations, identify all rally organizers and participants, and then punish them under criminal law, as well as pursue administrative measures such as informing all relevant government bodies so that they can penalize all those involved. Minister Huh emphasized, "We cannot accept illegal collective actions of government workers aimed at expanding their rights, during times when threats of terror are escalating and oil prices are soaring." He added that he will punish those local governments that are in collective bargaining with the KGEU, even threatening to refuse granting subsidies for the local governments. For sure, his attitude is !
against the fundamental principles of local governance and democracy.

The attitude of Ministry of Labor, which deals directly with the Bill on Establishment and Operation of Public Officials Trade Union, is not much different. The Ministry of Labor had already promoted this law last year and then had to postpone it due to the resistance from KGEU. However, this year's proposal is not much different from that of last year. It negates rights to collective action, limits the affectability of collective agreements, and even limits the form and scope of associating. The government is merely repeating that "If public officials, who are civil servants, go on a strike, then it will greatly affect citizens by paralyzing administrative services and state functions." At a meeting of 18th September with the Minister of Labor, which was reluctantly provided due to strong demands from the KGEU, the Minister KIM Dae-Hwan said, "There is no problem with the proposed bill that the Ministry of Labor made. There is no need for discussion." He left the meeting in!
10 minutes.

The Bill on Establishment and Operation of Public Officials Trade Union was proposed on 25th August, and went through one week of proposition period. After examination by the Ministry of Government Legislation, it will be tabled at the cabinet meeting on 12th October, through which the proposal will be officialized as a government proposal. During the one week proposition period, the KGEU, together with many other civic and social organizations including the KCTU, Democratic Labor Party and the Teachers Union, criticized the bill and demanded that the labour rights of government workers be fully guaranteed through the revision of the existing Labor Law - a general law. However, the government is turning a deaf ear to all the demands. The proposed bill is due to be tabled at the cabinet meeting without any revision nor improvement.

Asking for your Solidarity

The KGEU asks for your solidarity and support. Please write a protest letter to the Korean government and send your solidarity message to the union. It will greatly encourage our members and put much pressure to Korean government. Followings are the addresses and numbers of the Korean government and the KGEU. Your message will be translated into Korean and read out at our rallies during strike.

Prime Minister Lee
Office of the Prime Minister, Republic of Korea
77-6, Sejongno, Jongno-gu, Seoul 110-760, Korea
Email: m_opm@opm.go.kr
Fax: +82-2-720-3571

Minister HUH Sung Kwan
The Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs
The Government Central Building
77-6 Sejongno, Jongno-gu, Seoul 110-760, Korea
Email: minister6@mogaha.go.kr
Fax: +82-2-3703-5501

CHOI Ki Moon
Chief of the Korean National Police Agency
209 Migeun-dong, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul 120-020, Korea
Fax: +82-2-313-1010

CC: Korean Government Employees' Union
  9th Fl. Daeyoung Bldg. 139 Youngdeungpo-2-ga, Youngdeungpo-gu,
Seoul 150-982, Korea
  Fax: +82-2-2631-1949
Emails:kisto@kgeu.org kgeu@kgeu.org

   Background to Korean government and capital’s promotion of free trade agreements (FTA), and the position of KCTU

   Hunger Strike/Sit-in Demonstration to Protest South Korean Government’s Proposed Legislation on Irregular Workers


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