The Christian Urban Labour Movement Mission and the treatment of militant trade unionists - particularly those affiliated with the Christian Urban Labour Movement Mission - by the authorities. [KOR37231.E]

No mention of an organization called "Christian Urban Labour Movement Mission" could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. However, documentation was found on a Yong Dong Po Urban Industrial Mission (YDP-UIM). According to YDP-UIM's website, it was the first workers' mission organization in Korea founded in 1958 by the Presbyterian Church of Korea, and committed to "following the Liberator God in creating an industrial society of justice and peace."

The organization's self-detailed activities include: education and training programmes for workers and students; counselling to assist workers in resolving issues such as failure to receive wages, unfair dismissal, unjust treatment, and the improvement of working conditions; the formation of unions and supporting the democratization of yellow unions; and supporting the establishment of democratic relations between labour and management. The information provided goes on to say that, in the process of carrying out these types of activities, the

YDP-UIM has, in the past, faced great opposition from both government and business. As a result the YDP-UIM has been the subject of suppression, interruption of activities and false propaganda. For example, in the early 1980's police constantly monitored people who went in and out of the UIM and a mass media campaign labelled the mission centre as communist.

No additional details regarding YDP-UIM could be found among the sources consulted.

According to a report prepared by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), approximately 12.6 per cent of Korean workers belong to a union; the two largest being the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU) with a membership of 1,086,000, and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) with a membership of 418,000 (ICFTU Sept. 2000; Country Reports 2000 2001). There are approximately 5,560 trade unions in total (ibid). The ICFTU report notes that "there continue to be extremely serious and far-reaching violations of trade union rights in Korea. White collar public sector workers cannot join trade unions at all and there are serious constraints on the right to strike, including frequent arrest and repression of trade unionists" (Sept. 2000). After concluding its 25th session on 11 May 2001, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights reportedly advised the Korean government to refrain from the excessive use of police force in the maintenance of public order, in particular when dealing with trade unions (Korea Herald 14 May 2001; KCNA 17 May 2001).

As of September 2000, the Republic of Korea had ratified neither the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention No. 87, the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, nor ILO Convention No. 98, the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention (ICFTU Sept. 2000). As outlined in an Amnesty International public statement, industrial relations in Korea have been strained since the onset of the Korean economic crisis in 1997-1998, which brought about large-scale unemployment in a country with no social safety net. Although the statement notes that union rights have improved in recent years, it goes on to state that there are still restrictions on the right to freedom of association and that trade unionists may be arrested for legitimate trade union activities (AI 22 Apr. 1999).

According to ICFTU, the government frequently exercises Section 314 of the Penal Code - which considers any strike an obstruction of business - in order to deny workers' rights and to "convict trade unionists who go on strike over economic and social issues such as employment security, downsizing, or social protection for laid off workers" (Sept. 2000). The use of "obstruction of business" to outlaw industrial disputes or protest actions has been cited by ICFTU as the reason behind the large numbers of arrests of trade unionists. According to Amnesty International's 2000 Annual Report, the Korean government in 1999 reacted to strike action by arresting or threatening to arrest union leaders and by deploying large numbers of riot police to break strike actions and to stop demonstrations (AI 2000; ICFTU Sept. 2000). In its 2001 Annual Report, Amnesty International reported that police continued the use of excessive force to stop strikes and protests by trade unionists and noted that labour activists numbered 29 of the 99 political prisoners in August 2000 (AI 2001).

The following are several examples of government-trade union relations. On 13 May 1999 the chairman of the Hyundai Motors Trade Union was sentenced to one and half years in prison for "obstructing the work of public officials, and inflicting injuries on them, obstruction of traffic and business, violation of the assembly law and performing violent acts" (ICFTU 2000). The Hyundai chief shop steward was also sentenced on similar charges and received two years in prison (ibid). They were both pardoned and released on 31 December 1999 (ibid). On 29 June 2000, 3,000 police from the anti-terrorist squad baton-charged a peaceful occupation by union activists at the Lotte Hotel and discharged tear gas in the hotel building, injuring 33 workers. Workers were released on 1 July, just before the expiry of the 48-hour legal detention period, and seven union leaders were charged with "obstruction of business" (Country Reports 2000 2001; ICFTU Sept. 2000; ibid 2000). Another police raid occurred on 1 July 2000 when 3,000 police stormed the National Health Insurance Corporation building. In this instance, the police detained 1,600 strikers and issued arrest warrants for 38 union members (ICFTU Sept. 2000; ibid 2000). In 2001, clashes between police and striking workers played out in the protests surrounding the mass layoff by the insolvent Daewoo Motor Company at its main Bupyong plant (CNN 7 March 2001). In one incident occurring on 10 April 2001 and involving some 1,500 police and 3,000 union members, 43 unionists and 55 police officers were injured and 21 union members were arrested and released after 48 hours (KCTU 13 Apr. 2001; Ministry of Labour Apr. 2001). Bowing to public and political pressure, the National Police Agency apologized for the violence and dismissed the chief of Pupyong police station (Korea Herald 16 Apr. 2001).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Amnesty International (AI). 2001. "Korea: Annual Report 2001." [Accessed 4 June 2001]

_____. 2000. "Korea: Annual Report 2000." [Accessed 31 May 2001].

_____. 22 April 1999. "Public Statement: South Korea Trade Unionist Under Threat of Arrest.\SOUTH+KORE [Accessed 31 May 2001].

CNN. 7 March 2001. "Clashes as Daewoo Plant Reopens." [Accessed 31 May 2001].

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2000. 2001. United States Department of State. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office. [Accessed 5 June 2001]

International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU). September 2000. "Report for the WTO General Council Review of Trade Policies of the Republic of Korea." [Accessed 31 May 2001].

_____. 2000. "Korea, Republic of: Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union." [Accessed 31 May 2001].

KCNA. [P'yongyand, in English]. 17 May 2001. "DPRK's KCNA: S. Korean Authorities Urged to Stop Abuse of Power."

The Korea Herald. 14 May 2001. "U.N. Panel Advises Seoul to Permit Public Servants' Union."

_____. 16 April 2001. [Accessed 31 May 2001].

Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU). 13 April 2001. "Workers' Blood Decorates the Gold Nobel Peace Medal." [Accessed 31 May 2001].

Ministry of Labor, Republic of Korea. April 2001. "Correct Understanding of the Dispute at Daewoo Motors." [Accessed 31 May 2001].

Yong Dong Po Urban Industrial Mission (YDP-UIM). "An Introduction to the Yong Dong Po Urban Industrial Mission." [Accessed 31 May 2001].

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB Databases

Europa World Year Book, 2000

Political Handbook of the World

World News Connection


Internet sources, including:

Korea Labour and Society Institute

International Labour Union

Labour Movement and Labour Resources

Korea Labor Net

Jinbo Net

Korea Times

Labor Online

Asian Labour Update


Korea Economic Daily

Human Rights Watch

Yonhap News Agency

Asia Source

Korea Labor Institute

Korea Watch

Korea International Labor Foundation

Federation of Korean Trade Unions

British Association of Korean Studies

Human Rights Internet

Korea Information and Resource Centre

Digital Chosunilbo (English Edition): Daily News in English about Korea