TUAC Letter to the OECD Secretary General: Regression of trade union rights in Korea presents a challenge to the credibility of the OECD


On 4 July 2016, Sang-gyun Han, President of the KCTU – one of TUAC’s Korean affiliate – was sentenced to an unprecedented five years in prison for charges related to his legitimate trade union activities. The Court deemed that the President of KCTU was ultimately responsible for altercations between police and demonstrators during a rally that took place in November 2015, although Mr. Han had consistently called for calm and had dissuaded demonstrators from violence. 19 other KCTU members and officers were detained and indicted in relation to the November 2015 rally.

These acts by the authorities are only the most recent and alarming return to violations of the right to freedom of association for which the OECD Special Monitoring Process Labour Rights in Korea was designed to put an end in 2006. Concerns about the observance of trade union rights have been raised on a number of occasions at TUAC Plenaries since the end of the OECD Monitoring process. In response to the recent crackdown on trade unions, the TUAC has joined with the ITUC, ETUC and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders to issue a joint statement on trade union rights in Korea.

In a letter sent today to the OECD General Secretary, John Evans, TUAC General Secretary, states that “The regression of trade union rights in Korea (…) presents a challenge to the credibility of the OECD and the observance of its fundamental values by its members. It also represents a challenge for the organisation as commitments given during the accession processes of other countries will not be believed if they are so blatantly set aside by an existing member”.

Furthermore, the TUAC calls upon the OECD to intervene with the government of Korea to press for the release of Mr. Han and beyond, to develop a policy roadmap as to ensure the observance by Korea of the commitment to respect international labour rights that it gave, when it joined the OECD.