Truth about Samsung’s union-busting management approach may finally come to light

Posted on : 2018-04-03 17:21 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
The company’s tactics for crushing labor unions were discovered following a seizure of documents related to the Lee Myung-bak case
The front entrance of the Samsung building in the Seocho district of Seoul. (by Kim Bong-gyu
The front entrance of the Samsung building in the Seocho district of Seoul. (by Kim Bong-gyu

Prosecutors have launched a full-scale investigation of Samsung for union-busting operations after acquiring thousands of documents describing its anti-union strategies during a search and seizure of the group in their investigation into the payment of DAS litigation costs on [former president Lee Myung-bak’s] behalf, it was learned on Apr. 2. These documents reportedly include not only a document called “S Group Labor Strategy” that was released in 2013 but also recently composed documents about crushing labor unions.

Hankyoreh reporters have learned that the public criminal investigation department (led by senior prosecutor Kim Seong-hun) at the Seoul Central Office of the Prosecutors is performing digital forensic work on an external hard drive containing information about busting labor unions, including a union branch at Samsung Electronics Service. Investigators obtained the hard drive during a raid at Samsung Electronics. The forensic work, which began on Mar. 27, continued this week because of the vast amount of content on the hard drive. Since there are more than 6,000 documents on the hard drive, it is expected to take more than a week to analyze them all.

After finding clues in February that Samsung Electronics had paid the legal fees for an automotive parts manufacturer called DAS that is allegedly under the control of former president Lee, the prosecutors carried out three raids on the Samsung Electronics main office in the Yeongtong neighborhood of Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, as well as the headquarters of the Samsung Group in the Seocho neighborhood of Seoul. During one of these raids, the prosecutors reportedly seized an external hard drive kept by an employee on the Samsung Electronics human resources team that contained not only documents related to DAS but also documents about union-busting operations. The public criminal division has reportedly been analyzing the documents in question since it received another search warrant from a court in relation to allegations of unfair labor activity.

While allegations have been repeatedly raised about the Samsung Group’s union-busting operations, the company has always denied these allegations. Shortly after Justice Party lawmaker Shim Sang-jeong released “S Group Labor Strategy,” a document containing union-busting scenarios, in 2013, Samsung initially said the document had been designed for “internal review” before reversing itself one week later and denying that it had produced the document. In 2016, the Seoul District Office of Employment and Labor advised the prosecutors not to indict the Samsung Group about the document, and the case remains incomplete. But the large number of union-busting documents that have been acquired through the raid make Samsung’s arguments less credible, and the prosecutors have effectively re-launched their investigation.

With the prosecutors initiating a full-fledged investigation based on the thousands of documents about union-busting operations that they seized during raids on the Samsung Group, it will be interesting to see whether the truth about Samsung’s “no unions” management approach is finally revealed. While countless allegations about the company’s union-busting operations have been raised by company workers and whistleblowers, organized operations by Samsung have never been demonstrated through an investigation by the police or the prosecutors or through a trial.

By Seo Young-ji, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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