Target: Park Geunhye, President of South Korea
Goal: Release Kim Jungwoo, a union leader imprisoned for legitimate labor activities
Kim Jungwoo, a branch leader in the Korean Metal Workers’ Union, has served nearly a year in prison as a result of labor activities he recently participated in. Now, a possible appeal means that he could spend even more time in jail–even though the protest was legitimate. Sign the petition and urge South Korea to respect workers’ rights and free Kim Jungwoo when his sentence is up.
Kim Jungwoo was the leader of the Ssangyong Motor branch of the Korean Metal Workers’ Union when he participated in a protest prompted by layoffs that affected more than a third of the company’s employees. The given cause for the layoffs was “deteriorating economic performance,” but Amnesty International reports that “there have been doubts about the legitimacy of the dismissals.” Kim was arrested and charged with “special interference with a government official in the execution of his duties” when he attempted to stop police from taking down sit-in tents and a memorial display. (Twenty-four of the laid-off employees and their family members committed suicide or died of stress-related issues.)
The police action at the protest was unprovoked; the proposal for the protest had been submitted through all the proper channels, and two earlier court cases had asserted the union’s right to protest at the location. However, police banned the demonstration, likely as a result of the growing anti-union sentiment in South Korea.
Kim Jungwoo–and all workers–have the right to peacefully stand up for themselves and their colleagues. If Kim Jungwoo did indeed break any laws, he has served his time and long since paid his debt to society. Sign the petition and urge the authorities not to add any more time onto Kim Jungwoo’s sentence.
Dear President Geunhye,
The purpose of a union is to advocate for the rights of its members. However, recent actions by the authorities have prevented unions from freely pursuing their objectives, and individual union members like Kim Jongwoo, the former leader of the Ssangyong Motor branch of the Korean Metal Workers’ Union, end up facing punishment for simply taking a stand for their rights. And now, to make matters worse, Kim Jongwoo could face even more jail time for his union-related activities.
Kim Jongwoo was sentenced to ten months in jail after he participated in a June 2013 protest demanding the reinstatement of the 2,646 employees laid off by Ssangyong Motor in 2009. He attempted to stop police from dismantling sit-in tents and a memorial display and was subsequently charged with “special interference with a government official in the execution of his duties.” However, the protest should not have been broken up by police in the first place; the proposal was submitted through proper channels, and two court cases had ruled in favor of the union’s right to protest at that location. The denial of the protest permit was arbitrary and motivated by growing anti-union sentiment.
Kim Jongwoo has long since paid his debt to society. When his sentence is up in April, he should be a free man, not a prisoner who continues to be restrained by hostile politics. Do the right thing: release Kim Jongwoo.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: 샛길 via Wikimedia Commons