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Kim Dae Jung Set To Emulate Past Dictators?

KCTU Action Alert, 22 July 1998

In the early morning of July 22, 1998, 16 trade union and democratic movement activists in Ulsan were round up by the Pusan City Policy Agency Public Security Division agents. Later 3 other persons were taken by policy in Pusan and 6 others in Seoul, making the total 25.

The arrest sent a shock wave throughout Korea. The arrest comes at a time the Kim Dae Jung government declared that it would deal sternly with all illegal strike actions by workers. The presidential statement gave the green light to the hard-liners within his government to emerge at the forefront of the national affairs.

The public security agencies-including the police, prosecutors office, and the National Security Planing Agency-together with economic ministries which have never liked the idea of having to consult with unions emerged as the leading element of the government.

This resulted in the warrants of arrest issued against more than 100 KCTU leaders and activists, with the number growing every day. On July 22, 1998, warrants of arrest were issued against Park Pyo-kyun, the Executive Director of the Organizing Department of the KCTU, and Cho Hee-mahn, the president of the National Union of Regional Health Insurance Cooperatives. A Rude Knock from the Past

But the news of 16 people in Ulsan was felt, from the moment the news came to light, to be totally different. By late afternoon, the difference became clear.

It was learnt that the public security agencies-it is not yet known which agency was masterminding the whole action [but, there is a careful analysis that the action is organized by the National Security Planing Agency through the cooperation of the Policy Agency]—was preparing the announce the discovery of an illegal underground organization by the name of Anti-imperialist Youth League.

The public securities are expected to announce on July 23, 1998, that a group of people gathered at the Seoul National University in March 1989 to form an underground organization. This organization is supposed, then, to undertaken action to set up regional branches in Pusan area in 1992. The members are alleged to have joined organization which gives aid to the enemy and have been involved in activities in aid of the enemy in violation of the National Security Law. They are alleged to have been involved in instigating and agitating illegal strikes by workers.

But the people who have been arrested are officers of various trade union organizations-such as KCTU and its affiliated federations, local workers associations, youth groups, and women’s groups.

The current round up of activists smack of the so-called organization cases the security agencies of past military dictatorial regimes. Some of them are made to appear as if they had organizational ties with North Korea or involvement of North Korean espionage agents.

Many of the people were active in election campaigns of some of the KCTU-nominated candidates in the recent local government elections. Kim Dae Jung—resorting to the method of dictators?

There is a serious concern that the Kim Dae Jung government is resorting to the favorite tactic of past dictatorial regimes, which have used this kind of uncovering of underground organizations to escape political difficulty.

The police round up-taking place as the Hyundai Motors Workers Union is staging a very popular struggle in Ulsan and the KCTU preparing to launch a new general strike-can signal a abrupt turn of direction in the government behavior.

President Kim Dae Jung-praised as a hero of democracy who has survived through the repression of military regimes-is feared to be abandoning democratic principles, and beginning to adopt the same manner of governance as the past military and dictatorial presidents.

The various human rights groups which are keeping a close monitor on the situation fears that the arrest can mount up even further, with the total reaching around 40 to 50. If this turns out to be true, then, President Kim Dae Jung cannot escape the criticism that he has abandoned democratic principles in the name of economic crisis.

President Kim Dae Jung’s democratic credential will be severely tarnished. It is tantamount to declaring that democratic principles are acceptable in good time, luxury that people and government can do without at times of difficulty. This cannot be different from the inauguration of the notorious Yushin Regime by President Park Chung Hee in the name of preparing for reunification following the historical July 4th Joint Communiqué by south and north Korea. A Warning

Korean Confederation of Trade Unions calls on President Kim Dae Jung to impress on him that he is headed for very dangerous path. Any continued crackdown on the KCTU leaders attacks on just exercise of trade union rights, and resolute resistance will meet the resort to sinister security mentality to justify the abandonment of democratic principles.

Following is a partial list of the arrest in the so-called anti-imperialist Youth League and a statement issued jointly by the KCTU Ulsan Regional Council and the Ulsan Alliance of the National Alliance for Democracy and Reunification in Korea (NADRK). Ulsan


Statement by the KCTU Ulsan Regional Council and the Ulsan Alliance of the National Alliance for Democracy and Reunification in Korea (NADRK)

Released on July 22, 1998.

Stop the Repression of Labor and People’s Movements Immediately Release Those Arrested!

On July 22, between 6:30 and 7:00 a.m., 16 people were arrested by Pusan City Policy Agency Public Security agents. One member of a youth group had to be taken to hospital and remains in serious condition due to severe beating in the course of the violent arrests by the agents. The only known facts are that the arrest warrants were issued for violation of the National Security Law, and that there will be more arrests in the future.

Those confirmed as arrested have been active as KCTU executives, activists of the Ulsan Alliance, and as student activists involved in solidarity actions to resist the murderous mass layoff. The government has abruptly mobilized the malicious National Security, the favorite tool of the previous dictatorships, to crackdown on trade union movement, democracy movement activists.

President Kim Dae Jung had repeatedly asserted that the National Security Law was a malicious law, which should be repealed.

The government’s action can only be seen as a pre-emptive repression of the KCTU’s general strike, scheduled for the 23rd, in the struggle to resist callous mass dismissals.

As everyone is aware, the responsibility for the current economic crisis lies wholly with the corrupt government and monopoly chaebol. However, they are forcing the workers to bear the full burden of the crisis by enforcing the murderous layoff.

According to the government report, 27 job-loss-related suicides are taking place everyday, and the number of unemployed is reaching 4 million. The very right of workers to live is threatened.

The current protest strike by the Hyundai Motors Workers Union is becoming a life-or-death struggle. Their struggle is supported fully by various citizens groups and democracy movement organizations, such as the Ulsan Alliance.

The Kim Dae-Jung government, which claims itself to be a government of people, is fast becoming a government in the service of the interests of foreign capital and chaebol who are intent on crushing unions, democratic rights, and driving people into poverty.

The swooping arrest of trade union leaders and democracy activists by the Kim Dae Jung government revives the specter of military dictatorships which has used the malicious National Security Law as a weapon to repress workers and people’s movements.

The government is using the same techniques the past military regimes have used when they faced popular opposition. It is deceiving people’s eyes and ears by staging violent, illegal and false case in order to protect the ruling elite. Such a government action should not occur in a democratic society, and it shall never be condoned.

The KCTU Ulsan Regional Council and the Ulsan Alliance of the National Alliance for Democracy and Reunification in Korea strongly denounce and condemn the Kim Dae-Jung government’s brutal repression of the labor and people’s movements. We commit ourselves to step up our struggle for the progress of democracy and the people’s right.

  1. End the repression of labor and people’s movement and release the arrested!
  2. Repeal the malicious National Security Law!
  3. Nullify the mass layoff and guarantee the people’s right to live!


Please sent urgent protest letter to President Kim Dae Jung

President Kim Dae Jung
Blue House
1 Sejong-no, Chongno-ku, Seoul, Republic of Korea
Fax.: +82-2-770-0253, e-mail: webmaster@cwd.go.kr

For further information, contact:

Yoon Youngmo, International Secretary, KCTU

email: inter@kctu.org, fax: +82-2-765-2011, tel.: +82-2-765-7269