Sunday, October 22, 2006

Korean Government Workers Union (KGEU) under attack

After leaving the sacked hotel workers we set off to visit some friends for dinner. As we passed the City Hall in the centre of Seoul I noticed a collection of boards that were showing some disturbing pictures. The English translation quickly explained that government workers belonging to the KGEU were facing serious attacks on their democratic rights.

Much is made of the problems in North Korea but things are not so rosy for workers in South Korea. The KGEU HQ were raided by riot police on 22 September 2006, activists have been sacked as the union fights to gain recognition and secure basic rights for their members.

Whilst taking a picture outside the town hall I managed to find two KGEU union activists who were prepared to talk albeit with the assistance of my newly recruited translator & international trade union liaison (thanks Eunhee).

Dal Soo Lee (standing on my left) is one of the sacked trade union activists, he decribed the horrendous treatment they have had to endure and sadly the consequences of being a trade union activist. Despite the risks he and his colleagues face he was still determined to keep on fighting for workers rights. It was second time within the space of a couple of hours that my experiences and life as a trade unionist were challenged. I have been an active trade unionist for over 25 years but never been in the position where the stakes were as high as for the trade unions activists I met in Korea.

I am in touch with Dal Soo Lee and his colleagues and I am hoping that somehow I will be able to publicise their struggle and build links with UNISON and other Trade Unions in the UK. If after reading this article you have any ideas suggestions or want to support the workers then email me directly at

John Burgess

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