Official Statement on the Conclusion of the Korean Rail Strike

Posted January 2nd, 16:00, here

Message to the International Labor Movement Concerning the KRWU Strike

Dear brothers and sisters in the international labor movement,

I write to you to announce the conclusion of the Korean Railway Workers’ Union’s (KRWU’s) 23-day long strike against rail privatization and to thank you wholeheartedly for your support and solidarity.

In the early morning of 30 December, the KRWU reached an agreement with ruling and opposition national assembly members to establish a ‘Subcommittee on the Development of the Rail Industry’ under the National Assembly Committee on Land, Infrastructure and Transport. This subcommittee will have a multi-stakeholder advisory board in which the KRWU will participate.

Following the agreement reached, the KRWU, supported by its federation the Korean Federation of Public Services and Transportation Workers’ Unions (KPTU) and national center the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), decided to end the strike and prepare for the next phase of the struggle. Members returned to work at 11:00am on 31 December.

Despite striking for 23 days, we were unable achieve our central goal of stopping the Korean government from establishing and licensing a stock company to run the new Suseo KTX line. The government rushed through this process in a manner that was cowardly and legally questionable. The KRWU has filed a suit for the cancellation of the Suseo KTX company’s operating license.

Nonetheless, the successes of this struggle have been tremendous. Through the strike, the struggle against rail privatization became a struggle of the whole Korean labor movement as demonstrated by KCTU’s general strike on December 28 and the solidarity actions by other KPTU and KCTU affiliates.

The strike received deep and widespread support among Koreans from all walks of life. Beyond simply sending moral support, average Korean citizens actively participated in our struggle by sending financial and material contributions, posting hand-written signs with the slogan “I am not fine!” around the country, making their opposition heard through social media and coming out in mass to strike protests. This massive public support is an important foundation for the continued struggle against privatization of the railway and other public services.

International solidarity was also a vital part of the strike. Close to 15,000 people signed on to a Labourstart campaign calling on the Korean government and employer to respect railway workers’ right to strike. Countless affiliates of the ITF and other unions abroad send protest letters to the government and employer at several points throughout the strike.

In addition to these actions, the ITF international day of action on December 10 and continued protests at Korean embassies after the raid on the KCTU office on December 22 demonstrated the global significance of the struggle in Korea. The presence of the two ITF missions in Korea during the strike provided tremendous support to our members, enabling them to persist in the strike as long as they did. They also helped us stress the importance of social dialogue on rail policy to the Korean government and public.

To all those in the international labor movement who supported us, and particularly to the ITF and its affiliates, we send our deepest gratitude.

While the strike has ended, our struggle must continue. The national assembly subcommittee will be a tool in the political fight against privatization, but action on the ground is essential given the obstinacy of the Park Geun-hye administration.

More immediately, the repression against the KRWU has not disappeared. Dismissal of some 490 members and other forms of disciplinary measures for many more are predicted. The KRWU leadership is still wanted for arrest and the suit for damages against the union and its leadership worth over 7.7 billion won is still outstanding. Moreover, with the raid on the KCTU office last December 22, it is clear that the government’s attack has grown to one against the entire labor movement.

Support from the international community will be all the more important at this juncture. The KCTU has called for simultaneous protests around the country on January 4 and a second and third general strike on January 9 and January 16. We ask members of the international labor movement to organize protests at Korean embassies in timing with these dates to demand the withdrawal of criminal charges, the damage suit, dismissals and disciplinary measures against the KRWU, and end to labor repression in Korea, and an end to the unilateral pursuit of privatization.

In addition, the KRWU plans to work with the ITF to raise the issue of labor rights violations against strike participants at the ILO and OECD. In these actions cooperation with the ITUC will also be essential. We will continue to report on the situation here and discuss other forms of solidarity that may be needed.

Once again, thank you for your outpouring of support and solidarity. With continued cooperation we will be able to stop labor repression and privatization in Korea and build a global movement for quality public transport and labor rights.

With wishes for a powerful New Year,

LEE, Sang Moo
President, KPTU

KIM, Myoung hwan
President, KRWU

The ISC was present as the strike came to an end. Here are a few pictures of our experiences:

The gathering was tinged with bitter sweetness at a fight not yet won

The gathering was tinged with bitter sweetness at a fight not yet won

 Striking railroad workers rally together before returning to work. "Our success is that we have exposed the privatization of the railroad and the public agrees with us and our actions have sparked movements such as the 'I'm not fine' movement. Our fight continues."

Striking railroad workers rally together before returning to work.
“Our success is that we have exposed the privatization of the railroad and the public agrees with us and our actions have sparked movements such as the ‘I’m not fine’ movement. Our fight continues.”

Justice Party members The banner reads, "Good Work! We heart you! Let's continue together!

Justice Party members
The banner reads, “Good Work! We love you! Let’s continue together!

Solidarity for South Korean Rail Workers- Video

Solidarity for the Korean rail strike has poured in from dozens of countries worldwide. The fight against privatization is not a isolated fight. It affects us all. Only through solidarity action can we truly build a global movement. This video showcases solidarity action in San Fransisco. From the video, “…the police have declared an all out war on the KCTU and the KRWU. And when the police are moblilized in the thousands to surround the headquarters of the KCTU, it is indeed an all out class war. And we have a stake in this war. We stand with the Korean working class against the repressive government of Park Geun-Hye. ” This is a great video to begin understanding the massive scale strikes against privatization in Korea at the moment. It also covers a bit of the history of the Korean labor movement, and really highlights the truly repressive nature of the Korean police and government.  Please take the 15 minutes to watch.

Korean Railway Strike: News and Updates From the Ground

The following is a day by day summary of events as they happened since the strike against rail privatization began. All information and all photos have been taken from the Korean Confederation of Trade Union Facebook page.

Posted on December 3rd:

Daily Strike News
2/3, December 2013

The KRWU is busily preparing for the coming rail strike against privatization. On 30 November, mass rallies were held in five locations nationally in support of the general strike. In Seoul alone, 1,800 KRWU members took part and altogether 7,000 across the country.On 2 December, the union president released his strike instruction to the members. From this day, they will be wearing their strike vest and branch executive board members will take part in sit-down protest during the day. On 3 December, the union held a press conference to announce the strike scheduled to begin on December 9. From 5 December, the branch officials will extend their sit-down protest to the evening and the members will be working to the safety rule.

By December 13th, nearly 7,000 striking workers were laid off

December 14th:

Railway Strike Rally @ Seoul Station on its 6th day. Shin Seung-chul, KCTU president and Lee, Sang-moo, President of KPTU had their hair shaved, in determination for the victory of the strike. Citizens are bringing snacks, drinks and hot pack in warm solidarity.988868_228637403972758_1369604447_n

December 16th:

Arrest warrants for the striking KRWU leaders and search and seizure warrants for the union offices have been issued. Peoples are having candle light vigils in front of the KCTU office.

December 19th:

KRWU President, “The strike will go on unabated” 30,000 railway workers, KCTU members, civil society organization members and average community members gathered in front of city hall tonight to mark the anniversary of president Park Geun-hye’s election and call on her to keep her promise not to pursue rail privatization. KRWU President Myoung-hwan Kim, who must remain in the KCTU office to avoid arrest, addressed the crowd through video conference. Stating clearly that, “the strike will go on unabated” despite the government and Korail’s increasing repression, he called on KRWU members to participate in mass protests and candlelight rallies planned for December 21 and 23.

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December 20th:

As police raid on the KCTU office is near, members gathered at the lobby to defend KRWU leaders…

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December 21st:

Last night workers, students and community members gathered at KCTU after hearing word that the police were planning to raid. Hundreds stayed at the building all night and the raid did not take place. In the morning KCTU officers held a press conference to warn the police and govt that a raid on the KCTU building would be an afront to the whole labor movement and civil society and be met with a united response.

December 22nd:

Leaders of KCTU and affiliated industrial unions preparing for raid in front of KCTU office, supporters are gathered just behind the door.

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December 22nd:

1st: Raid on the KCTU office to arrest leaders of striking KRWU leaders is about to start!!

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2nd: Raid on the KCTU office is about to start…

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3rd: [Raid on the KCTU office] Police broke the glass door to enter. Some are injured.

4th: Some leaders of KCTU and supporters were arrested.

5th: [Police raid on the KCTU office] Peper spray shot out against the supporters when 80 of them were arrested…

6th: This morning, at 09:00, the police invaded on the office of the KCTU , regarding that 6 of wanted leaders of the railway strike are hiding here. 4,600 riot police including 900 SWAT were deployed for it. 800 supporters who were defending the office inside or outside of it. The police broke the glass doors in the front side of the building to enter and sprayed paper spray to the supporters who were staying on the ground floor when the police moved
them out. In the course, around 120 people including some leaders of KCTU and its affiliates were arrested.
The media, especially the conservative ones broadcasted live the raid, with blaiming the legitimate strike and union members. Supporters are still resisting on thr upper floors and it is very dangerous when the police try to arrest them by force on the narrow stairs. The strike is just and legitimate and the office of the KCTU is the center and heart of the democratic labour movement in Korea. This event vividly show the government’s anti- democracy and anti union caractors.

7th: Arrest team is approaching to the upper floors now.

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8th: The police took the 12th floor and more than 100 are still resisting while lots of people are having protest rally outside of the building…

9th: The police invaded the KCTU building by breaking the glass doors without any search warrant but only with arrest warrants for some leaders of striking KRWU. However, it is found that there is NO wanted leaders here!! The police raid is totally illegal!!!!!

And later: Everyone is in safe. The railway strike will continue, and all the KCTU affilates will join by a general strike on December 28!

An article summarizing the police raid: http://www.ituc-csi.org/korean-police-attack-kctu?lang=en

On December 23rd, international solidarity began pouring in:

Action Invitation

1st: “Protest against the suppression on the Korean Railway Workers’ Union
Calling Korean Government to respect labour rights and to free all the union leaders”. HKCTU will organize a protest against the Korean Government to condemn their violation of the right to strike of Korean Railway Workers’ Union (KRWU) and to call for release of all the arrested strikers…

2nd: Public Services International is deeply concerned by the attack on the KCTU offices on Sunday 22 December 2013 and the violence used by 4000 police officers, to arrest KPTU and KRWU leaders. Public Services International fully supports the strike action against the privatization of the Korean Rail. The strike is legal and the government is breaking its own laws and international conventions by attacking workers, using massive force and destroying the KCTU building….

3rd: Solidarity action in Hongkong

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Solidarity messages have also been sent from groups in India, Turkey, Indonesia, France and Japan.

December 24th:

This article was posted: “Global Unions Call on Korean President to respect trade union rights”

137 people who resisted the police raid on the KCTU building and were arrested have been released. However, the police filed for a warrant of detention for Kim Jeong-hun 김정훈, the President of the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union. The police are insisting that president Kim obstucted the police in the course of the execution of the arrest warrant for the KRWU leaders! However, in reality, he was defending the KCTU office from the police’s ILLEGAL RAID. The court will hold an investigation to determine a warrant’s validity tomorrow.

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and Via Support railway workers’ right to strike in Korea:

A simple way to show solidarity for the Korean railway strike and the Korean labor movement! The Korean on the attached sign says, “I am not fine!” This is now a slogan being used by supporters of the rail strike in Korea to express their dissatisfaction with the Korean government. Korean posters and slogans usually read, “How are you?” “I am not fine!” followed by the reason you are “not fine” (the government’s repression, etc.) Print out the sign and in the blank space write the reason you are “not fine” – that is something you want to stop in Korea.
Examples: Stop “rail privatization”, “arrests of union members”, “arrest warrants for KRWU leaders”, “raids on union offices”, “labor repression”, etc.

Take pictures of your self and other members of your union. Upload them to this facebook page and send them to the following email addresses:
president@president.go.kr
kkw0343@korea.kr
jswphy@korail.com
woo7788@korail.com
kptu.intl@gmail.com

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December 26th:

The court rejected the police’s application for a detention warrant for the KTP president and he is about to be released! It is a matter of course.

We will continue updating via the KCTU’s facebook page as updates occur.