(3-4 May 2001)

The TUAC Plenary Session meeting on 3-4th May 2001 expressed deep concern at the continued repression of trade union rights in Korea and in particular condemned the new round of imprisonment of union officials. Following the strike at the H&CB bank in December 2000, 26 finance union officials have received prison sentences of up to two years or fines for what is understood to have been called by the authorities illegal strike action. The TUAC also expresses its solidarity with the FKTU President Lee, Nam-Soon on hunger strike since 29th April in protest against the imprisonment.

Such imprisonment – for what in other OECD countries would be legitimate trade union action, again shows the need for the Korean authorities to reform labour law to bring it into line with the Freedom of Association principles of the International Labour Organisation, as promised when Korea joined the OECD in 1996. The TUAC Plenary Session expressed its concern that significant parts of Korean labour law continue to breach these principles and diverge from practice in other OECD countries, notably with regard to the absence of trade union rights for public servants, the widespread intervention by the state in internal trade union affairs, as well as the excessive limitation of normal strike activity through the use of Section 314 of the Penal Code on “obstruction of business”. TUAC is also very concerned at the postponement until 2006 of the earlier commitment to allow trade union pluralism at workplace level.

The TUAC calls on the OECD to press the Korean Government for the immediate release of trade unionists imprisoned for normal trade union activities and to insist that the government brings forward legislation to reform Korean labour law in line with the Freedom of Association principles of the ILO.

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