IFJ Congress Demands that Korea Frees Jailed Trades Unionists

International journalists' leaders meeting in Seoul have called for the authorities to release Korean trade union leaders and members imprisoned for taking strike action.

Delegates adopted a hard-hitting motion demanding the immediate release of imprisoned trade unionists Lee Yong-Deuk, President of the Korean Financial Industry Union (KFIU), a member of Union Network International (UNI) as well as the release of 10 other members of KFIU, Korea Telecom Contract Workers' Union (KTCWU), and the Korea Social Insurance Union (KSIU) who are currently serving prison sentences following a series of arrests, which began in March 2001.

The journalists said that the Korean government's attitude to civil and human rights may be in contravention of the UN Human Rights Declaration and recent judicial treatment of strikers from the KFIU and other unions' conflicts with ILO Convention 87 on freedom of association and ILO Convention 98 on the right to strike.

The IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said: "Korea must end all victimisation of trades unionists who are striving for better conditions and social justice. It is unacceptable to democratic principles for decent workers' representatives to be locked up for representing their members' legitimate interests."

The IFJ has also called for Korean prosecutors to abandon outstanding legal charges against 12 members of unions affiliated to the Korean Public Services Union, who could face imprisonment if their cases go to court. "Workers have a universal right to engage in peaceful protest and strike action without the threat of judicial punishment by governments,' said Aidan White. "Korea must set these colleagues free and keep the courts out of the peaceful and democratic exercise of industrial rights."