Korea, Republic of

The ITUC affiliates in the Republic of Korea are the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU) and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU).

In practice

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The Korean Railway Workers’ Union (KRWU) called a strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
at the Korea Railroad Corporation (KORAIL) against privatisation. The union made five specific demands: revocation of the decision to establish the Suseo KTX corporation; stopping the issuance of corporate licenses by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport; establishment of a railroad development subcommittee in the National Assembly Land, Infrastructure and Transport Committee; establishment of an organisation for stakeholder discussions; and putting an end to anti-union discrimination anti-union discrimination Any practice that disadvantages a worker or a group of workers on grounds of their past, current or prospective trade union membership, their legitimate trade union activities, or their use of trade union services. Can constitute dismissal, transfer, demotion, harassment and the like.

See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework

.

KORAIL responded by dismissing about 6,748 workers who participated in the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
. This means that almost all the workers who went on strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
lost their jobs. The KRWU filed an injunction injunction A court order prohibiting or preventing a certain course of action, such as calling or continuing with a strike. with the Daejeon District Court to prevent the establishment of the Suseo KTX Corporation. Solidarity actions were held throughout the country together with civil society organisations against privatisation at central train stations in Cheonan, Jeonju, Suncheon, and Mokpo.

Because it allows dismissed and retired workers in its membership, the Korea Teacher Union (KTU) was informed by the Minister of Employment and Labour to amend its by-laws until 23 October 2013. The union was threatened to be de-registered, if it failed to make the amendments. On 26 September, teachers in Seoul protested against this threat.On 23 October the KTU was de-registered by the government and 76 teachers who were working as full-time union representatives were ordered to return to their schools on 24 October.

E-Mart Co. Ltd. systemically attempted to undermine the organisation of the union, such as illegally using workers’ resident registration numbers to check if they had joined the union.

Hanjin has formed a “yellow” union to lure members from the Korea Metal Workers Union (KMWU). This situation drove Choe Kang-seo, Deputy Organising organising The process of forming or joining a trade union, or inducing other workers to form or join one. Director of the KMWU Busan Regional Branch Hanjin Local to take his life.

137 KGEU members have been dismissed for their trade union activities. The KGEU President and Secretary General were dismissed on the grounds that they are leaders of an illegal organisation.

165 public enterprise workers who are members of the Korean Federation of Public Sector and Transportation Workers’ Unions (KPTU) were dismissed in retaliation for legitimate union activities. Many of these workers, including 96 members of the KPTU-affiliated Korean Railway Workers’ Union faced reprisals due to their opposition to public sector privatisation and other actions taken to defend quality public services. Others were fired in an effort to prevent legitimate efforts to improve poor working conditions.

In April 2013, police banned a protest rally by union workers of the Jinju Medical Centre against the closure of the hospital. It was argued that union members had previously used violence to deter members of the South Gyeongsang Provincial Council from entering the building.

At Hyundai Motor, a “dispatched” worker won court decisions in January 2011 and February 2012, holding that he was an “illegally dispatched labour” and not “subcontracted labour”. The courts recognised the worker as a full-time employee directly employed by Hyundai after he worked more than two consecutive years at the plant. However, management of Hyundai refused to implement the ruling, which it announced on August 2012. Following the company’s denial, the KMWU initiated industrial action industrial action Any form of action taken by a group of workers, a union or an employer during an industrial dispute to gain concessions from the other party, e.g. a strike, go-slow or an overtime ban, or a lockout on the part of the employer. for the regularisation of all subcontracted workers who work for more than two years. The company responded with lawsuits requesting damages of 16.2 billion for strikes and sit-ins at the Ulsan, Asan and Jeonju plants.

In many industrial disputes, companies have used a much criticised “obstruction of business” law to seek arrests and devastating fines for engaging in strikes.

On July 27, 2012, the car parts manufacturer SJM hired and ordered personnel from the private security firms, Contactus, to violently break-up a sit-down strike sit-down strike A form of industrial action whereby workers occupy their workplace but do not carry out any work.

See strike
at its factory while police officers called several times by beaten workers came to the scene more than an hour later and then did not intervene in the violence.

The Korean Government Employees Union (KGEU) is still not recognised as a legal trade union organisation. The government has refused to register the union three times. Since its founding, 137 union members have been dismissed for their trade union activity. In January 2013, KGEU President Kim, Jung-nam conducted a 16-day hunger strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
before being hospitalised. The KGEU is now continuing a sit-it strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
in front of the National Assembly. The KGEU President and Secretary General were recently dismissed on the grounds that they were leaders of an illegal organisation.

According to reports, compensation being claimed by management over labour disputes is increasing despite an agreement eight years ago between labour and management restricting large indemnification suits after a series of workers suicides had resulted from large lawsuits. Several trade unionists were in jail in 2011 for strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
related activity.

In an examination of five large workplaces facing labour-management disputes, the total amount of compensation claims amounted to around 75 billion won (USD69,4 million). This included 30,1 billion won claimed by KEC, 17,9 billion claimed by Kumho Tyres, around 20 billion claimed by Hyundai Motor and its in-house subcontractors, 2 billion claimed by JEI, and 5,377 billion by Hanjin Heavy Industries (including a 96 million won fine against a single union member Kim Jin-suk, who led a crane top protest for much of 2011). Around 910 union leaders and members have been targeted by the claims.

KEC requested 30,1 billion won in damages even after establishing a collective agreement not to collect compensation. The companies that have claimed damages argue that they have suffered major losses due to illegal activities by the unions and that they are following proper procedure in requesting damages and attachments. However, many union officials are reportedly losing personal property and suffering depression as a result. In 2003, Doosan Heavy Industries worker, Bae Dal-ho, committed suicide by self-immolation, protesting the injustice of compensation claims while in October 2003, two union heads took their own lives, Kim Ju-ik at Hanjin Heavy Industries and Lee Hae-nam at Sewon Tech.

Underlying the proliferation of compensation claims is the difficulty workers face in holding legal strikes. All substantive strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
efforts are regarded as “illegal”, and companies use this illegality as a pretext for taking legal action. In February, Hanjin Heavy Industries undertook restructuring efforts that resulted in 400 lost jobs, including 230 voluntary resignations and 170 dismissals - a strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
in response was declared illegal. In-house subcontracting workers at Hyundai Motor carried out a strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
asking for conversion to regular employee status in accordance with a Supreme Court ruling, but this too was ruled illegal.

The interpretation from the government and the courts is that restructuring, privatisation, layoffs etc. fall under the category of management rights management rights Rights pertaining to the running of an establishment that are reserved to management and are not proper subjects for collective bargaining, e.g. hiring, scheduling of production and determination of working methods. Also called management prerogatives. and therefore strikes to prevent them are not permitted. According to Kwon Du-seop, a lawyer with the KCTU Law Centre, workplace damage claims are primarily being used to suppress the right to strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
and to crack down on unions. Concerns also remain over courts favouring management during lawsuits.

On 24 June, the International Metalworkers Federation (IMF) Assistant General Secretary, Fernando Lopes, joined a delegation that visited the National Assembly to report about recent, extensive violence against trade unions in Korea.

The current legislation allows for the unilateral cancellation of a collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
agreement, a clause which is often used by employers. The unilateral termination of collective agreements, one of the most central elements in labour-management relations, increased by some four times at public institutions

In July, the number of improper labour activity reports received so far for 2011 was 459, more than the entire total of 451 received in 2010.

Migrant workers are subject to serious abuses of labour rights. While the laws offer them similar protection to local workers in terms of wages and basic conditions, in reality most are paid far less than their Korean counterparts, forced to work long hours and often have their wages withheld. They are tied to their employer and face restrictions in changing jobs, making them particularly vulnerable.

There are around 700,000 migrant workers in South Korea, mainly working in factories producing textiles and electronics, but also involved in prostitution. In September 2008, the government announced it would halve the estimated 220,000 illegal migrant workers by 2012 and increased the sometimes violent deportation raids in workplaces and homes. Nearly 80% of migrant workers said that they had experience of being verbally abused at their workplaces while over 25% reported physical abuse. In September, it was announced that the government was suspending the entry of migrant workers from Vietnam after significant numbers failed to return home after their work visas expired.

In January, the Ministry of Employment and Labour rejected a National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) recommendation from October 2010 to reduce its interference in labour union establishment procedures and union membership criteria. It also reportedly ignored demands to allow temporarily unemployed workers and job-seekers into unions. In May 2010, a senior policy advisor of the Trade Union Advisory Committee (to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development TUAC-OECD) stated that the Korean government is interfering excessively with labour-management relations and that the policy of limiting wage payments to unionists did not conform to international standards. Trade unionists also criticised a new Trade Union Act that went into effect in July 2010 and which reduces the number of full time union officials. The number of full-time unionists in workplaces with less than 300 workers has reportedly decreased by 25%.

On 1 July, a new law went into force which allows multiple labour unions at a single workplace. The law was first enacted in 1997, but had been postponed for a decade. Under the revised law, only two people are needed to form a trade union. Supporters see the law as a means of improving worker’s rights to establish trade unions at enterprises that had established pro-management unions, or enterprises which had previously banned unions. Both Samsung and POSCO have maintained a “no labour union” policy so far by establishing a pro-management, or “ghost” labour unions, thereby blocking the creation of the real ones. The ministry expects 400 to 500 new unions to be founded over the next 12 months, adding to the total in 2009 of 4,689.

However, the requirement to establish a single bargaining channel faced strong opposition from FKTU and KCTU. Under the new system, workers can establish up to two or more trade unions at the enterprise level. It remains possible for multiple unions to bargain separately with the employer – only if the employer agrees, which is viewed as unlikely. In most cases, unions will have to determine a representative trade union to conduct bargaining with the employer. If multiple unions fail to establish a single bargaining channel on their own, the trade union composed of a majority of workers (including a union delegated authority by an alliance with smaller unions) would be the representative union. If there is no majority union, the multiple unions need to create a joint bargaining team in which they all participate. Unions are opposing the requirement to establish a single bargaining channel, arguing that it will restrict minority trade unions’ bargaining rights.

Collective action often becomes “illegal”, even when it is not in essential services essential services Services the interruption of which would endanger the life, personal safety or health of the whole or part of the population. Can include the hospital sector, electricity and water supply services, and air traffic control. Strikes can be restricted or even prohibited in essential services.

See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework
, given the complicated legal procedures for organising organising The process of forming or joining a trade union, or inducing other workers to form or join one. a strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
. The government continued to repress such action severely, including the imprisonment of hundreds of trade unionists. In the majority of cases, the principal charge was “obstruction of business”. Unionists striking “illegally” often receive a one-year prison sentence or heavy fines. Imprisoned trade unionists are generally isolated from one another in order to prevent them from taking collective action while in jail.

The authorities use the violence that takes place during some demonstrations and strikes to justify the detention of trade union leaders; however, unions insist police action is unnecessarily provocative and disproportionately brutal. Prosecutors are quick to issue arrest warrants as soon as workers go on strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
, or sometimes the moment a strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
is announced. Police or security agencies mount surveillance operations, some of a sophisticated nature, in order to capture the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
leaders. This surveillance is sometimes carried out on members of the trade unionists’ families. Unions’ offices and telecommunications are routinely monitored.

In April, it was reported that prosecutors had been collecting DNA samples from workers convicted of engaging in strikes and other activities. The practice, which currently targets workers who took part in a Ssangyong Motor strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
and the occupation of Daelim Motor, had reportedly been taking place at district prosecutor’s offices across the country since March.

In May a senior policy advisor of the Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC) to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) stated that the Korean government is interfering excessively with labour-management relations and that the policy of limiting wage payments to unionists did not conform to international standards. He also commented that the Korean time off system for union officials was introduced to weaken unions as was the fact that workers had to cover all union expenses unlike in other nations. The OECD was in South Korea to conduct an investigation into the deteriorating situation of labour rights and determine whether to include South Korea in its special monitoring.

Under the Law on Assembly and Demonstration, any gathering is banned within a hundred metres of foreign diplomatic missions. As a result, many large companies, such as Samsung, have invited embassies to rent offices in their buildings. This tactic effectively prevents workers from demonstrating in front of the company’s headquarters.

In a context where trade union pluralism is prohibited by law at the plant level, many employers have resorted to creating management-controlled unions, known as “paper unions”. As they are impossible to democratise from within, owing to management’s hostility, and since the law forbids the organisation of alternative unions, workers are left with few, if any, rights and cannot engage in genuine collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
. The continued ban on union pluralism at the plant level reinforces the negative impact of these “paper unions” in denying workers their collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
rights.

A February 2009 fact-finding mission of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Global Union Federation representatives and the Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC) of the OECD found supporting evidence that precarious workers in Korea continue to be denied the most basic rights, specifically rights to freedom of association freedom of association The right to form and join the trade union of one’s choosing as well as the right of unions to operate freely and carry out their activities without undue interference.

See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework
, collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
and collective action. The mission also concluded that the trade union rights situation is deteriorating, and that the government has failed to implement recommendations made by the International Labour Organisation (ILO International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
) to bring its laws into conformity with core ILO International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
standards, including the use of Korea’s unique “obstruction of business” clause (section 314 of the penal code) to severely limit legitimate trade union activity.

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