Korean Confederation of Trade Unions president Yang Kyeung-soo waves to supporters while police transfer him to a detention center. (KCTU / Labor and the World)
Detroit – UAW President Ray Curry Wednesday, condemned the arrest of Yang Kyeung Soo, President of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) for exercising his free speech rights in South Korea.
President Yang was arrested on the morning of September 2 after police squadrons in riot gear surrounded KCTU headquarters and entered forcibly. The South Korean authorities have charged Brother Yang with:
– obstruction of general traffic through demonstration,
– violation of the Act on Assembly and Demonstration, and
– acts relating to infectious disease control.
The charges stem from a July 3 rally, at which the KCTU demanded a moratorium on layoffs and dismissals as well as protection for the lives and livelihoods of South Korean workers. Despite South Korea’s world-renowned contact tracing, no new COVID-19 cases were linked to the rally.
South Korean trade unionists suspect that the motive behind the charges against President Yang is to blame trade unions for the fourth wave of COVID-19 in the country. The timing of the arrest is suspicious as well. It may be intended to intimidate union members prior to a KCTU general strike planned for October 2021.
“We call on the government of South Korea to release President Yang immediately and drop all charges,” said Curry.
“This is not the first time such an arrest has occurred during the Presidency of Moon Jae-in, a former human rights lawyer who, himself, was once imprisoned for the “crime” of organizing protest rallies. In December 2017, on President Moon’s watch, then KCTU General Secretary Lee Young-joo was arrested and charged with traffic obstruction and violation of the Act of Assembly and Demonstration. The UAW condemned her arrest and worked successfully to obtain her freedom, as well as that of KCTU President Han Sang-gyun, who had been arrested on similar charges under the government of disgraced President Park Geun-hye. We will work equally hard to obtain the release of President Yang,” Curry vowed.
“We demand the immediate and unconditional release of Brother Yang Kyeung Soo and all other trade unionists unfairly detained.”
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