South Korea

Chairman of the board of Samsung Electronics Imprisoned for 18 months for sabotaging union activities
17th December 2019.
A South Korean court has sentenced the chairman of the board of Samsung Electronics to 18 months in prison for sabotaging union activities, in a ruling likely to add pressure on the technology giant to overhaul its corporate culture.
Dozens of other current and former employees at various Samsung units were also convicted on Tuesday for their mistreatment of trade unions. State prosecutors have said Samsung executives used various tactics to discourage union activities, including threatening to cut the wages of employees linked to unions and withdraw business from subcontractors who appeared union-friendly.
Samsung group, South Korea’s biggest conglomerate, is facing growing public pressure to reset relations with its workers following a decades-long antitrade union stance. While not an official policy, Samsung has publicly expressed an aversion to unions, stating that they “create unnecessary conflicts”.
Labour activists have called for strong punishment for Samsung executives involved in sabotaging efforts to organise union activities.
It is a meaningful ruling which ended the Korean government's long-standing practice of giving SAMSUNG corporate impunity from punishment for crimes even though the crimes had victims and despite the company's deliberate, elaborately pre-planned, systematic and organizationally-mobilized methodical carrying-out of the crimes ~ and probable recidivism and destruction of evidence.
But somehow, corporate leaders who were at the center of the fierce union busting in the latter half of 2013 -- namely CHOI Gee-sung (Future Strategy office of Samsung Group) and Chairman LEE Kun-hee and the corporate magnate's family members -- were not even indicted.
Indeed, the KMWU press statement following the courts decision called for re-detention of Samsung magnate LEE Jay-yong.
The international trade union movement has continuously paid special attention to the situation of trade union rights in Korea.
Sister Lee Young-joo, former general secretary of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, has been released from prison on suspended sentence on the morning of 14 June 2018. She has spent almost six months in the Seoul Detention Centre.
Although Lee has been set free, at her trial on 12 June, Lee was found guilty on all charges. Judges convicted her to three years in prison, with four years of suspended sentence, and a fine of 500,000 KRW (US460$) for organizing the People’s Mass Mobilization rally on 14 November 2015.
The prosecutor claimed the demonstration blocked traffic and 100,000 demonstrators didn't disperse and obstructed execution of official duties, with some demonstrators resisting riot police water cannons and crackdown on public demonstration.
The mobilization was against repressive labour reform and became the catalyst of the mass movement in Korea resulting in impeachment of the former Korean President Park Geun-hye, who is now serving 24 years sentence by irony in the same detention centre, where trade union leaders were detained.
Although the new government of President Moon calls itself a “government of candlelight” and has promised to respect the labour movement, so far incarceration of the former Korean President did not automatically change Korean authorities’ attitude towards trade union rights and freedoms.
Lee’s colleague, Han Sang-gyun, KCTU president, was released in May this year having been imprisoned in December 2015.
SIGTUR along with international trade union movement have continuously campaign against Han and Lee's charges, imprisionment and trade union rights in Korea.
SIGTUR joined with KCTU, ITUC and other global unions organized protests in solidarity with Korean trade unions.
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