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South Korea – Stop crackdown on the Ssangyong Motor Company workers!

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condemns the crackdown on the striking workers of the Ssangyong Motor
Company. This statement calls for tripartite negotiations between the workers, the government and the company and an end to the repressive
measures being used against the striking workers.

ssangyong7.jpg(29 July 2009,
Bangkok) Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
condemns the brutal crackdown on the striking workers of the Ssangyong
Company. We call for genuine tripartite negotiations between the
workers, the government and the Ssangyong Motor Company and for an end
to the repressive
measures being used against the striking workers.

Last April,
Ssangyong Motor Company fired around three thousand workers during their
structural adjustment process. Subsequent negotiations between the company and
the labour union failed to produce an agreement that was satisfactory for both
sides. As a consequence, the workers and the labour union went on a strike and
occupied the Pyungtaek factory of the Ssangyong Motor Company. As of today, the
strike has lasted for 69 days.

The workers and the
labour union demanded that the government and the motor company
negotiate a fair and just settlement for the workers. However, rather
than playing the
role of an impartial arbitrator, the government dispatched police
forces to
crack down on the striking workers, firing tear gas from helicopters
and using laser guns against them. In the meantime, the company failed to attend
a pre-arranged meeting with the
labour union on 25 July.

During this strike,
two workers have died because of extreme stress from the dismissal and another
two workers who had accepted voluntary redundancy committed suicide.
One worker was shot in the face. Their family members also
suffer from this situation: on 20 July, wife of a labour union member
committed suicide due to mental stress because of financial difficulties and
threats of legal action from the company.

While five people have died during
this catastrophic situation, the Ssangyong Motor Company keeps vilifying the
striking workers as criminals and has not shown any attempt to solve the problems.

The police and company have stopped supplies of water including
drinking water and water for fire extinguishers, gas and food since 16
Civil society and opposition political parties have tried to deliver
water and food inside the factory, but they have been continuously
blocked by the company. Even medical personnel could not enter the
occupied factory. There are estimated to be around 100 injured people
inside the factory, unable to receive vital medical treatment. Many of
them are suffering from extensive bruising and fractured ribs inflicted
during the police crackdown. One of the workers has diabetes and
requires a constant supply of insulin, but have had no access to it in
the last 15 days.

strongly urges the government and the Ssangyong Motor Company to immediately
restore access to medical treatment, water, food and electricity for the
striking workers.We strongly call on the government to immediately
end the heavy-handed crackdown. Ssangyong Motor Company's situation should be
resolved through peaceful negotiations, not through violence.

The Republic of Korea has not yet ratified International Labour
Organization (ILO) Convention Nos. 87 and 98, providing for Freedom of
_Expression and Collective Bargaining, strongly related to the right to
strike. Above mentioned conventions have been identified as fundamental
conventions by the ILO. 

In its concluding observations to the Republic of Korea
in 2001, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR)
expressed its grave concerns about the unacceptable approach taken to
criminalise strikes and the use of excessive force by the police against labour

We would like to
remind the government of the Republic of Korea that in November 2009 the
country will again be under review by the UN CESCR. There is no doubt that the
current situation involving the Ssangyong Motor Company will be raised during
this review process.

regional human rights organisation with 46 members across Asia.

For inquiries, please contact:

  • Ms. Yuyun Wahyuningrum, East
    Asia Programme Manager, +66 87991 4451, email: [email protected]
  • Ms. Gayoon Baek, East Asia
    Programme Officer, +66 85056 6548, email: [email protected]

1 The Korea Times, 23 July 2009, "Police Move Closer to Removing Ssangyong Motor Strikes":