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Amnesty International slams police raid on union office

2013/12/24 17:22

SEOUL, Dec. 24 (Yonhap) -- Amnesty International criticized South Korea Tuesday for a police raid on the office of a militant umbrella labor union, saying it breached international human rights and labor standards.

Hundreds of policemen stormed the headquarters of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) in central Seoul on Sunday to arrest striking rail union leaders believed to be holed up there, sparking controversy over the excessive use of police force.

"The entry of police forces into the KCTU building is a clear violation of international norms," the Seoul unit of Amnesty International said in a statement.

The United Nations' Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials stipulates that government power should be used only in exceptional cases under strict criteria, but the South Korean government violated that regulation by sending police forces into KCTU, the human rights group said.

The government should halt its attempts to arrest the union activists and respect the workers' right to strike, the statement said.

Some 600 police officers forced their way the KCTU headquarters in central Seoul on Sunday to arrest union leaders of the state-run Korea Railroad Corp. (KORAIL), who have been leading weeks of strikes at the firm.

More than 8,000 unionized workers at KORAIL walked off the job on Dec. 9 in protest against a government decision to set up a KORAIL subsidiary to run part of the firm's high-speed train services.

The union deems the move to be a scheme to privatize the rail operator and predicts it will result in massive layoffs. But the government denies the allegations, saying the strike is unjustifiable.

The police raid came after the union leaders, including KORAIL union head Kim Myung-hwan, defied prosecutors' summons and the police were informed that they were hiding under the roof of the umbrella union confederation.

The seething government-union conflict, further fueled by the recent use of police force, has become one of the most controversial policy tasks of the Park Geun-hye government, nearly one year after she took office.

Park vowed not to compromise with the striking union workers while the other umbrella union group, the Federation of Korea Trade Unions, joined hands with KCTU to fight against the government's tough stance.