On 3 July, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, South Korea’s national union federation, organised a rally of 8,000 workers in Seoul to demand measures to protect lives and save jobs in the Covid-19 pandemic. (South Korea has had a relatively good record on Covid, but a relative case surge since the middle of June.)
Now KCTU President Yang Kyeung-soo has been arrested (2 September) for organising the rally, which the authorities are saying was in violation of Covid-control regulations. The KCTU was surrounded early in the morning and police in riot suppression gear smashed their way in.
This despite the fact that the 3 July organisers and demonstrators undertook careful preparations to prevent the spread of the virus and that no new Covid cases have been linked to the rally.
On 20 October the KCTU plans to hold a national general strike to demand stronger workers’ rights, expanded public services and social protections, and measures to ensure a just transition in the aftermath of the Covid surge. Union activists are plausibly suggesting that Yang Kyeung-soo’s arrest is intended to forestall the strike and shift the blame for increased Covid cases onto the labour movement.
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