Sentro asks South Korea government to end clampdown against trade unions


Republic of Korea
Blue House
Seoul, South Korea

Embassy of the Republic of Korea
Taguig City, Philippines

Dear Madam President:

The undersigned represent the Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Sentro) or Center of United and Progressive Workers, a national labor center here in the Philippines comprising of trade unions and other workers’ organizations in the private, public, informal and migrant sectors. Sentro also belongs to the country’s biggest labor coalition called Nagkaisa (United), which likewise fervently advocates for labor and trade union rights, democratic freedoms and solidarity with workers throughout the world.

We were informed by our colleagues in the international labor movement as well as from the Korean trade unions themselves of the escalating crackdown of your government against the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), its affiliate organizations and other organized workers in South Korea. We are deeply concerned of the series of police raids on union offices and the sweeping arrests and detention of union leaders. We are particularly appalled by the attempts to forcefully seize Bro. Han Sang-gyun, KCTU president, who is now holed up in a temple in central Seoul. We are both shocked and disgusted by the arbitrary and illegal moves of the government and its security forces to ban even peaceful assemblies or protest actions; and in branding the protesters as like the ISIL, which is both a dangerous and silly accusation, and in trying to prohibit through legislation the covering of one’s face during demonstrations, which is patently ridiculous.

We are very much aware that these indiscriminate and draconian measures are clearly stubborn efforts by the government to stop at all costs the growing opposition of the Korean workers and trade unions against the proposed labor law “reforms” – which would slash compensations of senior workers, hasten the employers’ ability to terminate workers, increase the number of temporary agency workers in sectors that they are currently not allowed, further weaken protections for subcontractual workers, and restrict the union’s right to check the employers’ power to implement workplace rules that are harmful to the workers’ interests. Moreover, we are mindful of the fact that South Korea ranks lower in labor protection among the majority of OECD (Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development) rich member countries – contrary to the government’s fallacious claim that the country’s labor protection laws and policies are “too high” and hinder “job creation,” and which supposedly prompted the proposed labor law amendments.

Sentro strongly denounces the heavy-handed attempts of the government and its security forces to prevent the Korean workers and citizens from freely expressing their lawful and inalienable rights to peaceably assemble and to air their grievances and aspirations. The massive mobilization of workers and citizens last November 14 was a resounding manifestation of their rejection of the socioeconomic and labor agenda of the government; thus, its dogged attempts to ban the succeeding December 5 mass actions were a desperate bid to thwart the mounting challenge to its authority. Sentro is doubly alarmed by the increasing authoritarian tendencies of the President, which are disturbingly reminiscent of the military dictatorship of your late father, President Park Chung-hee, who ruled South Korea from 1961 until 1979.

Sentro echoes the calls to withdraw the proposed labor law “reforms,” end the clampdown against the KCTU and other trade unions, cancel all the repressive regulations that suppress human, labor and trade union rights and civil liberties, free all the incarcerated trade unionists and activists, revoke the arrest orders against Bro. Han Sang-gyun and others, drop all the charges against them, and fully restore all the democratic rights that were trampled upon since the start of the campaign versus the Korean unions.



Secretary General


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