Warrants for crane protesters sought

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Warrants for crane protesters sought

Police yesterday sought a warrant to detain activist Kim Jin-sook on charges of interfering with public affairs, a day after she finally descended from a shipyard crane where she had staged a 309-day sit-in protest against Hanjin Heavy Industries’ layoffs.

Three other protesters - labor activist Park Seong-ho, fired Hanjin worker Park Yeong-je, and Hanjin union member Jeong Hong-hyeong - will also be charged for staging a sit-in on the same crane for 106 days, though 15 meters (49 feet) below where Kim was. Police said they would request detention warrants for them soon.

The four protesters staged the sit-in to demand that all assembly-line workers fired from Hanjin be rehired, prompting large-scale rallies that garnered national attention. Under mounting public pressure, Hanjin’s management caved and agreed to rehire all 94 laid-off workers as experienced-level employees.

Although part of the agreement stipulated that both the union and the management would withdraw all ongoing or planned lawsuits against each other, police said that interfering with public affairs was an offense that could not be withdrawn under the law.

Kim was taken to Dong-eui Medical Center in Busan immediately after she came down from the crane, while police took the three other activists to a local police station. Police attempted to begin questioning the three, but their families demanded that they be allowed to receive a medical checkup first. The three other protesters were taken to the same hospital where Kim was sent.

To prevent Kim from fleeing, police dispatched guards near her hospital room, and she was followed each time she left the room. Hanjin union members visited her, but they did not engage with the police presence.

Kim was questioned by police yesterday at the hospital, while the other three activists returned to the local police station. Police said that Kim, who stayed on the crane longer than the other three, needed to have specific medical checkups and allowed her to stay at the hospital yesterday.

Meanwhile, operations at the Yeongdo shipyard were returning back to normal after 326 days of labor strife.

“We will clean up all traces of conflict by cleaning the shipyard thoroughly, including the crane, and take steps for a new start,” Jeong Cheol-sang, a shipyard director, said.

Police told the JoongAng Ilbo that they would charge 393 protesters who staged illegal demonstrations during the first, second, third and fifth anti-Hanjin rallies and request warrants against two leaders of the rallies.

By We Sung-wook, Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]
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