SOUTH KOREA – The U.S. media often contrasts the South Korean government against its Northern counterpart but recent moves by the Park Geun-hye government against the nation’s trade unions is being denounced internationally as an earmark of totalitarianism.
South Korean government appears to be taking their cues from America’s anti-labor establishment to privatize large sectors of the national economy. To ensure the privatization project continues unhindered, the government is refusing to recognize the government employees’ union and deregistering the nation’s teachers union. To protest the moves toward privatization, railway workers went out on strike last December. In response, the Park Geun-hye government had the strike leaders arrested and charged for “obstruction of business” provision of the national penal code.
In protest of President Park’s response, over 40,000 workers from the Korean Federation of Trade Unions turned out to demand the release of their union leaders and the resignation of Park Geun-hye. In response, South Korean authorities dispatched over 1,400 police to confront the demonstrators.
In spite of arrests, additional strikes and demonstrations are being planned by the rail workers’ union to prevent the privatization of KORAIL, the Korean national rail service. Additionally, several international labor rights and human rights organizations are calling for the release of imprisoned union members.
The all-out assault against South Korea’s organized workforce follows in the wake of similar moves around the world, specifically in nation’s that herald their friendliness to U.S. corporate interests.