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article imageKorean trade unionists 'under threat' as leader is arrested

By Tim Sandle     Jan 3, 2016 in Business
Seoul - According to the campaign group Labour Start, the administration of President Park, Guen-hye of Korea, since 2013, is seeking to weaken the rights of workers and their unions. For this reason, a petition has been established.
Guen-hye is the eleventh and current President of South Korea. She represents the conservative the Saenuri Party (New Frontier Party.) According to Forbes magazine, she is the world's 11th most powerful woman. Her policies, like those of her party, are socially conservative and economically liberal (as in the promotion if free markets.) As an example, in 2014 she signed the Australia Korea Free Trade Agreement, to promote greater economic co-operation with Australia.
According to campaign group Labour Start, since taking office Guen-hye has undertaken a number ofmactivities designed to restrict freedom of expression by organized workers. This has included using the police to disrupt protests and to arrest trade union leaders.
Police activity includes a raid on the offices of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), where documents were seized along with and computers. A warrant was issued for the President of the KCTU, Han, Sang-Gyun and he was arrested in December 2015 after giving himself up after seeking refuge in the Buddhist temple of Jogyesa. According to the New York Times, a longstanding convention was broekn where neither police nor army personnel would break into a Buddhist temple. On this occasion, monks, who had formed a human chain to prevent the authorities from entering the temple, were forced aside by police officers.
The raid followed a union street protest about planned new labor laws. These measures would lead to lower payments for overtime work, permit temporary agency work in basic manufacturing (a form of working illegal to date) and lower the level of unemployment compensation for workers in low-wage short-term jobs.
The International Labor Organization, a United Nations body, has criticized the government of Korea for violations of the right to freedom of association and to bargain collectively.
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