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KCTU Representative's Speech at Founding Congress of ITUC (Nov. 2, 2006)
name : KGEU date : 2006/11/15 file : 0 K download : 0

The following is the speech paper by Ms. JIN Young-Ok, Vice-President of KCTU during the founding congress of ITUC in Vienna, Austria

Thank you Chair


I would like to extend warm greetings of solidarity on behalf of more than 15 million workers in South Korea on this historic occasion.

First of all, I would like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation for your consistent interest and solidarity for the improvement of the labor right situation and calling for an end to trade union repression in South Korea. We recognize the significant role the international community such as the ILO plays in pressuring for improvement of labor standards. It is as a result of this pressure and the solidarity provided by everyone of you that we, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions are here at this Founding Congress. So we hope that ITUC can continue to organize mutual support and solidarity amongst its members to challenge the neo liberal globalization. We the KCTU pledge to be part of this challenge utilizing our past experiences and mobilizing our strength..

Trade union and human rights are threatened by neoliberal globalization. The WTO and international financial institutions such as the IMF have already deprived thousands of workers and their families many things such as rights to access to clean water, public services, quality health care, and decent work. The DOHA development agenda has already failed. Even its proclaimed objective to promote "development" in the South is no longer a reality. So, we do not want the WTO or an FTA. We want a labor friendly and equal globalization based on new internationalism. In this process, the ILO's role should be more emphasized and be an effective measure to defend and promote international labor standards and the last resort for defending trade union rights.

In spite of the significance of the ILO, I would to like to denounce any government that neglects the authority and legal capacity of the ILO. The Committee on the Freedom of Association of the ILO has made 13 recommendations to the South Korean government to bring labor laws and industrial relations systems in line with international standards. However, the government has never implemented these recommendations legally and practically. Instead, the government has chosen to intensify trade union rights repression.

Even during the ILO Asian Regional Meeting which was held in Busan, South Korea this year, the government forcibly closed the local union offices of the Korean Government Employees Union. The government continued its efforts to systematically destroy the KGEU by launching a nation-wide raid of KGEU local union offices on September 22.

In addition, on September 11, the South Korean government decided to postpone union pluralism at the enterprise level for another three years under the excuse of needing a transition period and avoiding social disruption. However, it should be noted that the government has postponed union pluralism for the past ten years using the same excuse. How long does South Korean workers need a transition period  Currently, irregular workers comprise more than 60% of the entire work force. The majority are women workers. The government has failed to guarantee the fundamental basic labor rights for irregular workers. They are often fired immediately after they exercise their right to organize and form a trade union. So, the fight for irregular workers is also the fight for women’s rights..

Yesterday, the Vice President of the Australian Trade Union Congress stated that the Australian government was the worst in the first world at least. In this light, I would like to say that the South Korean government is the worst government in the OECD.

Comrades, there are currently 77 members of the KCTU that are imprisoned due to trade union activities. The majority are construction workers and irregular workers. On July 16 Ha Joong Keun, a member of the Korean Federation of Construction Industry Trade Unions was severely beaten to death by several riot police during a strike.

This is Ha Joong Keun. What more can be said  This is the reality in South Korea.

We recognize that trade union repression is not unique to South Korea. The attack on workers around the world by governments and corporate globalization is increasing.
Trade unionists are being killed in Colombia and in the Philippines. Trade unionist rights are being repressed in Zimbabwe and in Cambodia. And in Australia the right to collective bargaining is disappearing. I would like to add South Korea on this list for its failure to meet international labor standards and brutal repression of trade union rights.

Yesterday, ILO Director General Juan Somavia stated that organizers in danger can call him and he would respond immediately.

Director General Juan Somavia,

South Korean workers are calling you now.
KGEU members, construction workers, and millions of irregular workers are calling you. They are waiting for your response.

Comrades, the KCTU will launch a General Strike on November 15 to stop trade union repression and ensure basic labor rights in South Korea. I would like to reiterate a traditional labor slogan that we know so well, “An injury to one is an injury to all.” South Korean workers are calling for your support and solidarity again on November 15.

Lets fight together. Lets unite through ITUC.

Thank you.


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