KCTU to take on Moon after chairman’s arrest

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KCTU to take on Moon after chairman’s arrest

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), the country’s second-largest trade union, pledged to fight the Moon Jae-in administration’s labor policies on Saturday after its chairman, Kim Myeong-hwan, was arrested Friday.

The organization has a total membership of over one million laborers belonging to a variety of subsidiary groups. It said it will hold a press conference in front of the Blue House on Monday to elaborate how it will carry out its organized resistance against the government in retaliation over Kim’s arrest. Kim was detained by police on Friday on the charge of inciting four illegal protests from May last year through April. It was the fifth time since the KCTU’s launch in 1995 that the organization’s chairman has been placed under arrest.

“Arresting and persecuting members of the KCTU clearly shows the Moon Jae-in government, like the Park Geun-hye government, seeks to go the way of a society that favors and privileges the chaebol,” said the organization’s deputy chairperson, Kim Kyung-ja, at a protest on Saturday. “Just because the chairman and members are arrested, the KCTU will not cease its resistance.”

The KCTU has been accused of holding a series of violent demonstrations in March and April at the National Assembly to block the passage of bills on extending the statutory flextime for the government’s mandatory 52-hour workweek policy from three months to six. Union members allegedly knocked down the fence around the National Assembly building in Yeouido, western Seoul, and assaulted police officers during a clash on April 3.

Kim accepted full responsibility for organizing the demonstrations during a police investigation and a press conference on June 7. Yet Kim added that his organization’s resistance was fully justified, as its actions were for the sake of advancing labor rights in Korean society. Three other KCTU members have also been placed under arrest over the rallies.

The Seoul Southern District Court on Friday ruled to grant an arrest warrant for Kim in light of the possibility that he may try to escape. In delivering this ruling, the court is believed to have considered the precedent of Han Sang-kyun, the KCTU’s previous chairman, who resisted arrest on similar charges of staging illegal demonstrations for almost a month in 2015 by taking refuge at Jogye Temple in central Seoul.

Known for its militant tactics that have often caused direct conflicts with the government, the KCTU has been mounting a fierce pressure campaign against the liberal Moon administration for months. The union is accusing the administration of going against the promises Moon made in the 2017 presidential elections to advance labor rights. The union is arguing that the government and ruling party’s proposals to extend the flextime for the 52-hour workweek and redefine the scope of recipients of the minimum wage represent the administration’s decision to move away from its alliance with labor, according to one of its leaders, Choi Joon-sik, at Saturday’s rally.

The KCTU has already pledged to stage an all-workers rally in Ulsan, one of Korea’s major industrial centers, in June, followed by a strike of all KCTU members in July.

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]
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