Former Korean Trade Union President Released From Prison

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He was in jail for nearly 3 years on charges for organizing protests against former President

Umer Beigh / The Dawn News / May 29, 2018

Han Sang-gyun, the former president of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, who was arrested three years ago, for organising protest rallies against the Park Geun-hye regime, has been released. On May 21, he was released from Hwaseong Detention Center and was welcomed by thousands of workers amid slogans “Our president Han Sang-gyun, you really struggled! We love you so much!”

While interacting with a large gathering outside the Center, Han said, “I’ve heard a lot of things I didn’t hear while I was prison the last time… The world is changing. The guards in the prison told me they wanted to become Korean Government Employees’ Union members.”

“In the past, we were prone to spending our time criticizing and denouncing. Now we need to use our abilities to liberate labor and create a world of equality,” Han, who formerly worked as an autoworker, said.

Han had led a major strike at Ssangyong Motor during the global crisis in 2009, as well as a movement against mass dismissals and precarious work afterwards. This strikelasted for 76 days during the course of which hundreds of workers seized the plant against impending layoffs, casualization and outsourcing. Several of strikers were interrogated and detained.

Han organised a massive rally in November 2015 in which almost 130,000 people gathered and protested against the erstwhile Park Geun-hye government. He was also involved in organising several other rallies. The mass mobilisation Han was part of sparked a series of large protests culminating in the ‘candlelight vigil movement’ and a demonstration by almost one million people, in November 2016.

The mobilisation led to the impeachment and imprisonment of President Park, who was accused in Choi-scandal of embezzlement of public funds, his decision of stepping down due to protests became the most significant event in entire South Korean history. The six-weeks-long candlelights protests pushed the reluctant lawmakers to cast their votes against Park and her confidante Choi Soon-sil.

In December, 2015, on the charges of violations of the Assembly and Demonstration Act,  obstruction of public duties and obstruction of traffic, the activist, Han was arrested by state police and sent to five-year sentenceinitially which was later upheld to three years by Supreme Court in May 2017.

Han told reporters on May 21, that the international solidarity of the United Nations, International Labour Organization, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Amnesty International, labour unions, human rights activists and others “gave him strength during his detention”.

“Today Han Sang-gyun is out of prison. He will be welcomed home not only by the people of Korea, but by workers worldwide,” Sharan Burrow, the General Secretary of International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), said in a statement.

According to General Secretary of ITUC the fight for freedom does not end here: “Former KCTU general secretary Lee Young-joo remains in detention for her role in the peaceful protests that brought down the former government, and we call for her immediate release,” she added.

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