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Arrest Warrants for Korean Metal Union Leaders Following Strikes Against Free Trade Agreement

Posted to the IUF website 09-Jul-2007

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The government of Korea has issued arrest warrants for 27 officers of the Korean Metal Workers' Union (KMWU) following 5 days of rolling strikes against the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Over 110,000 union metal workers took part in regional strikes from June 25-27, followed by national strikes/rallies against the FTA on June 28 and 29. While the manhunt for KMWU leaders was underway, the police on July 3 arrested the two Co-Chairs of the Korean Alliance against the Korea-U.S. FTA (KoA), Oh Jong-ryul and Jung Gwang-hoon, charged with carrying out 'illegal' protests against the trade deal. The KoA includes the two national trade union confederations and a number of farmer and social movement/civil society groups.

The agreement, signed by the Presidents of the US and Korea on June 30, still needs to be ratified by the legislatures of the two countries to take effect.

As the KMWU has pointed out, the hasty last-minute inclusion of a "labour and environment clause" "does not transform this essentially neoliberal free trade agreement into a 'fair' one that will benefit workers and farmers of both countries´┐Ż KMWU believes that fundamental labor rights are universal rights and should be guaranteed regardless of whether or not an FTA is concluded between the US and Korea. Thus, we do not see it as appropriate to link respect for labor rights with free trade deals." The text, running to over 250 pages (without the tariff tables), gives sweeping rights to transnational investors in the areas of water and other service privatization, patent enforcement, investment dispute settlement procedures etc.

Unions around the world, national and international, including the IUF, have sent support messages to the KMWU/KCTU, expressing solidarity with their actions and condemnation of government repression.

More information is available on the web pages of the KCTU at www.kctu.org

You can support the campaign to free the Co-Chairs of the KoA by visiting their website here.