Police give KCTU leader 24 hours

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Police give KCTU leader 24 hours

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Han Sang-gyun, the head of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, looks outside a window Friday at the Jogye Temple, where he is taking refuge. [NEWSIS]

Police on Tuesday issued a 24-hour ultimatum to Han Sang-gyun, the head of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) who is currently taking refuge with a Buddhist order, to move out of the Jogye Temple by 4 p.m. today or risk being forcibly arrested.

“The police cannot sit and watch him [evade arrest] anymore and have notified Han Sang-gyun to respond to the arrest warrant within 24 hours from 4 p.m. [on Tuesday],” Kang Sin-myeong, the head of the National Police Agency, said at a press conference.

The KCTU leader announced Monday that he was extending his stay in the temple and would not leave until a package of labor reform bills pushed by the Park Geun-hye government - which the group claims are detrimental to blue-collar and temporary workers - are blocked in the National Assembly.

Han fled to the temple to avoid arrest for organizing a mass anti-government rally in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul, on Nov. 14, that turned violent. He has remained at the temple since Nov. 16.

“It is a grave criminal act that [he] continued to incite illegal acts, hiding at a religious place after orchestrating an act of violence that went against the law,” the national police chief said, adding that police would carry out the warrant whether or not the Jogye order cooperated.

Police hinted that they would raid in the temple based on the expectation that Han would avoid turning himself in to authorities.

Gu Eun-su, the chief of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, visited the temple earlier Tuesday morning to request a meeting with the Jogye order to help expel the KCTU leader. The monks, however, rejected the idea.

The last time police raided a religious facility was in March 2002, when authorities arrested members of a power plant union.

A representative committee for the Jogye order held a press conference earlier Tuesday afternoon and urged Han to make a decision, citing the main opposition party’s promise not to pass labor reform bills this year.

“Rather than prompting confusion, the opposition party has to say, ‘We oppose the labor law revision,’” the union leader said in a post on his Facebook page immediately after the monks announced their stance.

On Tuesday afternoon, the temple was crowded with Han’s supporters as well as his opponents, who urged the union leader to leave.

Forty singers from a women’s choir organized by members of the temple shouted “Pull out Han Sang-gyun!” and climbed up to the fourth floor of the main hall where Han was staying but failed to open the locked door.

BY YOO SEONG-WOON [kim.sohee0905@joongang.co.kr]

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