Seoul Mayor visits imprisoned trade union leader

Posted on : 2016-08-11 18:21 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
While visiting Han Sang-gyun, Mayor Park discusses policies meant to make Seoul more labor-friendly
Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon with Han Sang-gyun
Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon with Han Sang-gyun

On Aug.10, Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon visited Han Sang-gyun, the president of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, who is serving a five-year prison sentence for organizing protest rallies. The mayor reportedly offered consolation, acknowledging the iniquity of the situation and reconfirming his governing philosophy as a mayor who respects labor.

Park was granted special permission to speak with Han at the Seoul Detention Center in Gyeonggi Province. They talked for about 15 minutes on such topics as benefits for young people, the problems of temporary workers at Seoul Metro, and a system whereby labor leaders would have positions on corporate boards of directors. Earlier that day, the mayor met with Kim Dong-man, president of the Federation of Korean Trade Unions, for about one hour.

A City Hall official said, “The mayor visited Han in order to show support and encouragement. Since the fatal accident at Guui Station [where a year-old-temporary worker was killed], more people are raising their voices, demanding a solution to labor problems. I believe the mayor was concerned about issues he’s been emphasizing, such as the giving temporary workers permanent positions and his ‘Seoul-type labor’.”

On Aug. 11, the Seoul government is to announce innovative measures to overhaul the city’s labor operations. Park was going to make the announcement himself, but on the afternoon of Aug. 10 that responsibility was given to the Employment and Labor Bureau chief. Instead, the mayor is taking the role of “salesman,” meeting with labor leaders to explain the direction and intent of the city’s new labor policies.

Nam Jeong-su, spokesman for the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, said, “Mayor Park talked with Han about progress being made on the youth benefits program and about regularizing temporary employment in the Seoul Metro system. Han also offered suggestions about how Seoul can become a city that respects labor by carrying out such policies as making temporary positions permanent and introducing a system of certification of businesses that pay a living wage.”

Since Han was imprisoned last year, he has been visited by some opposition lawmakers, but no politician who is regarded as a potential candidate for the presidency had gone to see him before.

Rather than donating some money to Han’s commissary account, the mayor gave Han a copy of the novel “Princess Deokhye.”

Han was sentenced to five years in prison and fined 500,000 won (US$454) for organizing and leading labor rallies last November and obstructing the execution of special official duties.

By Choi Woo-ri and Park Tae-woo, staff reporters

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