Go to contents

Union Members Resist Office Closures

Posted September. 23, 2006 03:55,   


On September 22, most local governments across the country began administrative enforcement on forceful closedown against about 140 offices of the Korean Government Employees’ Union (KGEU), giving rise to conflicts in many places.

This enforcement was carried out under the order of the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs (MOGAHA) to close down the offices of the KGEU, the illegal association of public officials, by 3:00 p.m. on September 22.

The KGEU and its umbrella group, Korean Confederation of Trade Union as well as Civil Society Organization, resisted the forceful closedown of the offices by mobilizing physical fights. As the prosecution ordered to the police to take all of those who resisted the administrative enforcement to the police stations on charge of obstruction of justice, the number of people who are likely to be punished is expected to rise.

However, despite MOGAHA’s warning that if local governments fail to follow government guidelines, they will face disadvantages including cutbacks on the local shared taxes, some local governments decided not to aggressively carry out the administrative enforcement and as a result, not few KGEU offices were saved from the closedown.

As of 4:00 p.m. on this day, head offices of the KGEU in Guro, Geumcheon, Yeongdeongpo, Jongro, Mapo, Nowon, Gangseo, Gwanak districts in Seoul and in Busan were closed down and another 23 KGEU offices in Ulsan, Taebaek city in Gangwon province, Cheongwon in North Chungcheong, Jindo in South Jeolla, Jinhae, Uiryeong in South Gyeongsang and Jeju also closed down.

In addition, 12 KGEU head offices including the one in Gyeonggi province were closed down, increasing the number of offices that were either forcefully closed down or voluntarily shut down to 35 out of a total of 162 offices.

In Seoul this day, starting with Guro-gu, which closed down its KGEU office at 6:10 a.m., earlier than other regions, the administrative enforcement against eight offices in Seoul was finished. KGEU offices in Seongbuk-gu and Seongdong-gu were voluntarily shut down while three other regions such as Dobong-gu, Gwangjin-gu and Gangdong-gu, which were still persuading KGEU leadership, were not able to begin the closedown.

Suwon City in Gyeonggi Province has delayed the administrative enforcement until September 25 but Pocheon City, which is also in Gyeonggi Province, is resisting government guidelines, citing, “The KGEU’s activities have not caused any problem so far, there is no reason for us to close down its office.”

In Seo-gu and Gwangsan-gu in Gwangju and some cities in South Jeolla province, sit-in strikes and demonstrations continued.

One official of MOGAHA said, “The Ministry decided to carry out the forceful closedown of KGEU offices from the perspective of addressing illegal activities because KGEU refused to establish legal labor unions even though there are ways to set up labor unions legally and continued to cause trouble such as demanding abolition of Ulchi Focus Lens Exercise, Korea-U.S. joint military drill.

However, KGEU chairman Gwon Seung-bok said, “Although our activity is legitimate, the government is now trying to close down the offices against our will just because we didn’t register our union. So, the KGEU will continue to fight against the government while joining hands with civic groups including Korean Confederation of Trade Union.”

KGEU spokesperson Choi Nak-sam said, “Despite KGEU’s legitimate activities, the government has forcefully closed down its offices and described the KGEU as an illegal organization based on grounds that the KGEU failed to register of its creation. However, it is a measure that lacks the recognition of basic rights to labor. Since many local governments are now taking wait-and-see approach, all of KGEU offices will not be closed down.”

Meanwhile, 204 legal experts including lawyers, public labor attorneys held press conference in the morning of September 22 and urged, “The Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs should retract its guideline on the closedown of KGEU offices and stop the clampdown on the union.”