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Arrest of Korean trade union leader raises concerns about freedom of association and assembly

03 September 2021

The TUAC joins other international trade union organisations calling for the immediate release of Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) President Yang Kyeung-soo, who was arrested on 2 September 2021.

The arrest warrant was issued following a demonstration held on 3 July, which the government says violated Covid-19 related regulations: social distancing rules and necessary precautions, including wearing of masks and temperature checks. The allegations are contested by KCTU.

The arrest of President Yang once again exposes the inadequacy of the Korean legislative and judiciary system to meet basic expectations for workers’ right to freedom of association and the right to peaceful assembly.

Despite recent progress, including the ratification of ILO conventions 87 and 98 that will go into effect in 2022, Korea’s regulatory environment for trade unions and freedom of association remains very challenging, as evidenced by numerous trade union reports including by the TUAC.

KCTU President Yang was preparing to participate in official TUAC and Business at OECD consultations with the OECD leadership on 8 September ahead of the OECD Ministerial Council Meeting on 5-6 October.

Pierre Habbard, General Secretary of the TUAC said: “The arrest of President Yang is simply wrong. He should be released without delay. His arrest is a dire reminder of the need for a serious discussion on what binds OECD member countries and what the OECD stand for in terms of democratic rights to peaceful protest.