Courts go light on violent occupiers

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Courts go light on violent occupiers

Six months after the Ssangyong Motor labor union ended its occupation of a factory, 55 members have been convicted. However, courts have so far chosen to mete out lenient sentences, prosecutors complain.

So far, 43 were handed suspended jail terms in their first trial. Of the 11 who were given actual prison terms, seven were granted suspended sentences by appeals courts.

Another member was fined, with no jail term.

Prosecutors say even the sentences at the original trials were soft. But now they are nearly nonexistent, they say. Prosecutors argue the courts’ leniency is in contrast to the government’s position that it would sternly punish those responsible for the incident. The 77-day seizure of the automaker’s factory in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi cost Korea’s fourth largest automaker 316 billion won ($269 million) lost in production. Occupiers also injured riot police sent to control the situation. Protesters used slingshots, Molotov cocktails and burning tires to repel officers.

Kang Ji-hyun, the spokesman of the Korean Metal Workers’ Union welcomed the reduced sentences. “The rulings by the first trial was politically motivated but we find the second rulings fair.”

A prosecutor who spoke on condition of anonymity complained he can’t understand why courts suspended prison sentences of protestors who were very active in the strike.

“Courts give too lenient sentences at trials related to politically-motivated and illegal strikes and that goes against the government’s principle of no mercy for illegal labor activities,” the prosecutor said. “In its first ruling, the Suwon District Court’s Pyeongtaek branch gave imprisonment sentences which were deemed to be stern and appropriate decisions. In the second trial, however, other courts reduced seven out of 11 protesters’ sentences and they eventually received suspended sentences. We need to wait and see how the ruling over 22 other protesters [that include Han Sang-kyun, the head of the Ssangyong Motor labor union] will be made this Friday, but I doubt there will be a big difference between Friday’s ruling and the previous rulings.”

Prosecutors in January sought a seven-year jail sentence for Han and terms of between two to five years for 21 other union leaders. The Suwon District Court’s Pyeongtaek branch will make it rulings on Friday.

The Suwon District Court’s Pyeongtaek branch gave a suspended jail sentence to a man surnamed Cho, a 39-year-old senior unionist at the Incheon chapter of Korean Metal Workers’ Union. Cho had been indicted on charges of injuring Ssangyong Motor workers with metal pipes and bamboo spears when they tried to enter the Pyeongtaek factory complex and resume production.

In a second trial, the Seoul High Court last month gave a suspended sentence to a Ssangyong unionist surnamed Lee, 33, overturning the first two-year sentence by the Suwon District Court’s Pyeongtaek branch. Lee was indicted on charges of shooting slingshots and throwing Molotov cocktails at police forces that tried to gain access into the factory.

In the first ruling, judges said Lee deserved a jail sentence as he spearheaded the attack against riot officers. To prevent national and social losses caused by the illegal strikes, the judges said in the ruling that, “it is necessary to sternly ask Lee to take responsibility for his wrongdoing.”

But judges at the Seoul High Court reduced Lee’s sentence, arguing Lee just followed orders from his union leadership and joined the strike because he didn’t hear specific reasons from the company why he was being laid off.

The prosecutor said after the public learned that Cho Du-sun, the rapist of an 8-year-old girl, only received a 12-year jail sentence there was a public outcry and punishments for violent crime were increased.

“However, there are no real discussions about punishment measures for cases like the Ssangyong Motor strike,” the prosecutor continued.


By Kim Mi-ju, Kwon Suk-chun [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]
Related Korean Article

1심 “공권력 도전 엄벌” 실형, 2심 “참작할 사정 있다” 집유


지난해 쌍용자동차 불법 파업과 관련해 재판을 받았던 55명 가운데 50명이 1, 2심을 거치며 집행유예를 선고받은 것으로 나타났다. 본지는 77일에 걸친 불법 파업이 끝난 지난해 8월 6일 이후 6개월간 서울고법과 수원지법, 수원지법 평택지원에서 나온 판결문 38건을 분석했다.

그 결과 1심에서 특수공무집행방해나 폭력행위 등 처벌에 관한 법률 위반, 집시법 위반, 업무방해 등 혐의로 기소된 파업 관련자 55명 중 78%인 43명에게 징역 2년~10월에 집행유예 4~2년씩이 선고된 것으로 조사됐다. 벌금형 1명을 제외한 나머지 11명에 대해선 실형이 선고됐다. 그러나 이들 11명 가운데 7명도 2심에서 집행유예를 선고받았다.

1심 재판부는 “폭력과 파괴 행위를 일삼는 잘못된 시위문화로 인한 국가·사회적 손실을 방지하기 위해 엄중한 법적 책임을 물을 필요가 있다” “공권력 경시 풍조에 경종을 울려야 한다”며 실형 선고 이유를 밝혔다. 반면 2심 재판부는 “파업 가담 과정에 참작할 만한 사정이 있었고 노사 간에 합의가 이뤄졌다”며 실형을 선고한 원심을 깼다. 금속노조 간부 등 외부세력에 대해서도 “불법 파업을 한 쌍용차 노조원들 대부분이 집행유예로 석방됐다”는 점을 들었다.
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