Union Leaders Arrested on Eve of Major Workplace Negotiation in South Korea

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is

concerned at reports of the arrest of four union leaders involved in the high

profile industrial dispute between YTN media workers and management in South Korea.



Journalists’ Association of Korea (JAK), an IFJ affiliate, reports that Mr

Jong-Myun Roh, chairman of the YTN union, Mr Duck-Soo Hyun, former chairman of

the YTN union, Mr Seoung-Ho Jo and Mr Jang-Hyuk Lim were arrested on March 22

and continue to be held by police.



reportedly said the four had failed to maintain an appointment to appear before

the police.


JAK representatives told the IFJ the four leaders had agreed with police on a

scheduled appearance on Thursday March 26. 


A general

strike by YTN staff was planned to be launched today to protest the failure of

YTN management to reach a compromise with the YTN labour union in the company’s

annual negotiation on salary and working conditions.



arbitrary arrest of four union leaders on the eve of a major YTN workplace

action points to direct intervention by the authorities to weaken planned

industrial activities by the YTN staff,” IFJ Asia-Pacific

Director Jacqueline Park.


YTN staff have been protesting for seven months to seek

guarantees of editorial independence at the broadcaster, following last year’s

appointment of Gu Bon-Hong as YTN president. Gu previously worked as an aide to

South Korea’s

President, Myung-Bak Lee, which raised concerns among YTN staff about potential

attempts by the Government to exercise undue political influence on the



On February 24, the Korean Communications Commission (KCC)

confirmed the renewal of YTN’s broadcaster’s business licence after significant

delays to its scheduled renewal date in December 2008. 


Ongoing protests by YTN media workers have resulted in

management dismissing some staff and initiating disciplinary action, complaints

to police and court injunctions. Six staff who were dismissed as a result of

the dispute remain without their jobs and the YTN union continues to fight for

their reinstatement.


While hopeful

that YTN management will initiate fresh talks with staff to seek a positive

resolution of the dispute, the IFJ condemns these latest actions by police.


“The IFJ urges the Government of South Korea and YTN

management to encourage open dialogue with YTN staff and union leaders to

resolve the dispute, including actions to reinstate sacked workers and end

disciplinary actions against staff,” Park said.


“Arresting union leaders who are acting in the interests of press

freedom and the Korean public is, however, unhelpful and unproductive,” Park



In February, journalists in Korea

including MBC announcers released a video on YouTube alerting the public to the

demise of freedom of expression in South Korea. The video is posted in

French, Chinese, English and Spanish and can be viewed at the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f25m6DAvNPE.



For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919


The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide