Corea, República de - Ssangyong motor workers arrested and protests stormed (2010)

On 16 and 20 July and again on 2 August, thousands of armed riot police used water cannons, trucks and helicopters to storm Ssangyong Motors Pyeongtaek plant where some 800 laid off workers and members of the Korean Metal Workers’ Union (KMWU) had been holding a sit-in strike for over two months. The dispute arose after the company announced mass dismissals of around 3,000 workers without notice or union input. On July 16, riot police used force to block basic supplies to the strikers. A total of 82 workers were detained for two days while company managers reportedly visited their homes, threatening family members with the imprisonment of their spouses and confiscation of their homes to pay the company damages. The wife of one unionist committed suicide reportedly as a result of receiving arrest warrants for her husband while two ex-workers also committed suicide. An agreement was finally reached on 13 August, but police interrogated and detained some 100 workers who were taken to prisons without the proper medical care. The agreement included limits on the number of workers dismissed, but negotiations continued over protection for strikers.

As of 28 October 2009, some 80 people were being investigated and under trial, including two KMWU vice presidents. There were some 64 union leaders, members and supporters imprisoned awaiting trial with a further 31 KMWU members released after conviction or initial hearing, making it the largest mass arrest of people on public security charges in 12 years. Ssangyong management also disciplined some 144 union members who participated in this strike and sued KMWU Ssangyong branch for KRW 5 billion (USD 4.3 million) and the national KMWU and other unions for a further 5 billion. Local police filed a suit against the KMWU and the KCTU for KRW 2 billion (USD 1.7 million) to cover medical costs for injured police and damage to police property. At least one mid-ranking official with the Ssangyong Motor union was sentenced to one and a half years and convicted of incurring KRW 2.29 billion of damages and destroying 10 million worth of office furniture. Another official was sentenced to a one year term suspended for two years on similar charges.

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