Archive for the ‘Business and Human Rights’ Category

Suggestion for Labor Union Calls for the Pink Slip

March 2, 2011 Leave a comment

Seung Soo Jo, who is the representative of New Progressive Party, is holding a sign saying that ‘Although labor union creation is legally assured, Samsung chooses absolute dismissal? Is this attitude as No.1 Company Samsung? Mr. Park has to be reinstated right now!’ (Picture source : Yonhapnews)

Se Hwa Hong, who is a journalist at Hankyoreh newspaper, is holding a picket saying that ‘Dismissal is murder. Samsung workers die of leukemia and worker repression without labor union. Samsung employees, let’s unite and create democratic labor union!’(Picture source : Byung Seung Song, Sisa Seoul)

Mr. Park is shedding tears revealing his feeling at a press conference of denunciation of Samsung’s labor union creation suppression and dismissal invalidity confirmation lawsuit on December 27th, 2010. In the back, there is a picture of him suspended from working. There isn’t even a computer on the desk.(Picture Source : Sungho Yoo, Ohmynews)

By:  Yuri Yi


Jong Tae Park, who worked at Samsung for 23 years since he was 20, was fired on November 26, 2010. The fundamental reason for his employment termination was his suggestion to make a labor union. However, Samsung is denying such accusations.

The incident began with Park’s passionate move in ‘The Council of One family’[1] which is a substitution of a labor union at Samsung. He was elected as a council member in 2008. Since then, he worked hard to speak up for his colleagues regarding problems such as disadvantages in performance rating.[2]

His passionate service in the organization attracted attention from the authorities who began to monitor him. Whenever he wanted to go to the toilet, he had to advise his supervisor. When he used the computer in the common area during break, a supervisor came to observe what he wrote on the internet website.

Furthermore, they kicked Park out of The Council of One Family and attempted to transfer him to another branch in other countries such as Brazil and Russia. He refused to go abroad for health reasons. Consequently, he had his pay curtailed for six months and was suspended from the company for an indefinite period. His desk was moved to an isolated area so that he could not contact his coworkers. In addition, he had nothing to work on and was blocked from the company’s internal email system. He had to sit alone all day doing nothing; Samsung wanted him to resign.

Park developed depression from this outcast experience, resulting in psychotherapy hospitalization. Currently, he is taking 31 pills per day to alleviate disk, depression, anxiety syndrome, gastritis, and insomnia.

After three months of waiting for work, he uploaded a text demanding the creation of a labor union but it was deleted within 15 minutes. He wrote it again, however, it disappeared in an instant. In the end, Samsung dismissed him on the basis of revealing company secrets, spreading false information, and disorderly conduct.

Even though it has been two months since he was fired, Park is still in the front of Samsung Suwon branch staging a one-man demonstration. Park is having financial difficulties in supporting his two daughters who are attending elementary and middle school; however, he refuses to give up fighting against Samsung stating, ‘I would like to show that justice wins, not winning is justice.’

At first, he was alone, but not anymore. Many people, including employees at Samsung, support him. Se Hwa Hong, who is a journalist working at Hankyoreh newspaper,[3] protested with Park on January 12th. Mr. Hong said that, ‘it’s unbelievable that management without a labor union still exists. I can’t even imagine it happening in Europe. Korean Enterprises are insisting that they are global companies, but their labor-management relations are similar to that of a feudal society in the middle ages.’

Seung Soo Jo, who is a representative of the New Progressive Party, was with Mr. Park on January 24th. Mr. Jo said that ‘we should focus on this problem from the point of view of workers’ basic right repression which is caused by a management without a labor union at Samsung. This is not only a problem of individuals, but also a problem of structure.’

Banollim, which is a group that supports health and human rights of workers at semiconductor factories, joins every Friday to cheer for Park. After several semiconductor employees who worked at Samsung passed away, the members of Banollim attempted to disclose Samsung’s lack of justice.[4] Jong-ran Lee, a labor attorney at Banollim, said that, ‘not only the dismissal of Mr. Park but also the leukemia problem of Samsung semiconductor workers and the suicide problem of Samsung LCD factory workers were caused by the absence of the basis of a humane working environment. If Samsung allows the creation of a labor union, that would allow Samsung to have the fundamentals for fair communication, to prepare safety measures of chemicals use, communication is an important medium.’ Lawyers for a Democratic Society also helped Park win the suit against Samsung to let him go back to his workplace.

Samsung is the number one company in Korea. However, Samsung has not yet joined the UN Global Compact. Beginning this July, multiple labor unions are legally allowed by the labor union law. As managements without labor unions became a target of criticism, attention is now focusing on the direction of Samsung’s attitude.

As Kun hee Lee, the chairperson of Samsung Electronics, state that, ‘society and citizens have to be honest’ right after his amnesty, Samsung would appear as to focus its business ideology on honesty. Nevertheless, as a global company, will Samsung be able to survive in the global market ignoring human rights?


[1]. It is equivalent to a joint labor-management council in which labor and management negotiate about concerned issues. Its name is taken from a motto of Samsung ‘an another family’

[2] For example, female employee who has child can’t avoid negative consequence in human resources. It’s because minimum 5% of employees has to get low score in the assessment of performance, and mothers naturally becomes targets unless something unexpected happens. In order to escape from disadvantageous situation, even pregnant women keep their status secret and have miscarriages in the end of excessive labor.

[3] Hankyoreh is a representative progressive newspaper in Korea.

[4] Recently, Gyo Chul Joo, who worked at Samsung semiconductor factory as a Diffusion Part Engineer for 23 years, died of leukemia on November 14th, 2010. He couldn’t get compensation for Industrial disaster. He was nineth employee who died of disease at Samsung. Joo Hyun Kim, who worked at Samsung LCD factory as a Facility Engineer for a year, committed suicide on January 11th, 2011. He suffered from severe dermatitis caused by chemicals in the factory and excessive labor for 14-15 hours a day. It happened a week after a female employee who worked at the same branch with Mr. Kim killed herself on January 3rd.


”I was fired” Jong Tae Park, who was fired from Samsung Electronics, is staging one-man protest in front of Samsung Suwon branch.(Picture source : Jaemin Kim, Ohmynews)




10th International Conference of NHRIs on “Business and Human Rights”: Edinburgh Declaration adopted

October 13, 2010 Leave a comment
10 October 2010
Human rights institutions from around the world have called for action on corporate abuse of human rights to be stepped up.
Representatives from around 80 countries attending the 10th International Conference of National Human Rights Institutions in Edinburgh made the call in the “Edinburgh Declaration” to mark the end of the conference.
The event is the first official United Nations event to be held in Scotland. 

Rosslyn Noonan, Chair of the International Coordinating Committee, and Chair of the New Zealand Human Rights Commission, said:
“We are at a tipping point. Successful businesses are crucial for development, but recognition and protection of human rights has not kept pace with the power and influence of globalised economies.
“Over the past three days we’ve come together as national human rights institutions  to agree in the Declaration that more must be done to support businesses to understand their responsibilities, work we will be taking forwards collectively across the world.
“More than 350 people have attended the conference as delegates, observers, campaigners and business representatives – on their behalf I would like to thank the Scottish Human Rights Commission for driving the business and human rights agenda forward at such a crucial time.”
The Declaration calls for more national and international monitoring of businesses’ compliance with human rights law, that advice should be given to companies, governments, campaigners and individuals about corporate responsibility, and that institutions themselves have an important role to play in supporting companies and victims of potential human rights violations. Read the Edinburgh Declarationin Word format.
Professor Alan Miller, Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission, said: “The Edinburgh Declaration gives organisations like ours a road map on business and human rights at a time when private companies have increasing influence in so many parts of our lives.
“Commissioners from countries including Venezuela, India, France, Bangladesh and Australia have agreed that we can support businesses understand their responsibilities, while helping individuals claim their rights. The end of the conference is the start of all the national institutions putting renewed emphasis on what they can do in their own countries on this vital issue.”
On Friday Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Chair of the Business and Human Rights Initiative, gave keynote speeches to delegates at the Scottish Parliament. The three-day conference closed today, Sunday.


<This post was taken directly from the Scottish Human Rights Commission’s Website. All Rights are with SHRC>
Scottish Human Rights Commission:
From October 8-10, 2010 in Edinburgh, the 10th International Conference of the National Human Rights Institutions on “Business and Human Rights” took place. There the above stated Edinburgh Declaration was adopted. Also, at this conference many individual papers were presented and one specific to South Korea was “New Challenges and New Chances for NHRIs KOREA”.

Suspension of MBC General Strike Followed By Employment Termination: Has the Last Bastion for Freedom of the Press Collapsed?

September 27, 2010 Leave a comment

Tues Jun 15

Myungsun Kim

Suspension of the Munhwa Broadcasting Company (MBC) union’s thirty-nine day general strike, was soon followed by the company’s decision to terminate the union leader Lee Geun-haeng and take disciplinary action against over one hundred union members. MBC is Korea’s second largest broadcasting station and the event in which disciplinary action was taken against such a big number of union members was unprecedented in MB history and exceedingly uncommon throughout the world.

News of the company’s retaliatory actions toward the union brought anger and disappointment to those who saw MBC as “the last bastion” of democracy and freedom of the press in modern Korean society.

Critics and members of the union found MBC’s decision to terminate union leader Lee Geun-haeng especially unfair and “undemocratic,” worrying that the large-scale punishment on the unionists and the termination of Lee Geun-haeng will make a dramatic ending to the government’s “Press Occupation Scenario.”

Arirang TV, Korea Broadcast Advertising Corporation (Kobaco), YTN, and KBS have already turned into political channels, however MBC had continued its lonely struggle to protect its independence.

MBC unionists launched the walkout on April 5 in opposition to the nomination of pro-government Kim Jae-chul as new MBC president.

“This entire turmoil essentially resulted from the present government’s persistent political conspiracy to use MBC as a government informant.(…) The union will never forgive the government that dismisses the press employees for demanding freedom of the press,” declared the union in the official announcement they issued on June 4.

Seeing as “the major newspapers are already on their (the government’s) side, and KBS and YTN occupied,” the MBC union’s battle was largely unknown to the public. Only a few people knew of the MBC union general strike, and even fewer people knew why the strike occurred.

Choi Moon-soon, a former MBC union leader and now a National Assembly member of the Democratic Party of Korea, said in an interview with Media Today, that in addition to the sequential replacements of high-officials of the press companies, “the current government generally suppresses the freedom of expression in Internet, Culture, and Arts to maintain and secure their political power.”

During his meeting with the MBC union members on May 6, Mr. La Rue said, “even if the government owns or financially supports public broadcasting, independence of the public broadcasting should not be shaken… if it does it is a serious matter…the entire society can be at stake without the diversity of the press.”

The deteriorating human rights situation—particularly the situation of the right to freedom of opinion and expression—is the reason the MBC union’s strike is so difficult and crucial.

During his visit to the strike scene on Apr 16, former KBS president Chung Yeon-joo spoke to the MBC union members, “I believe you will protect the last bastion (of freedom of the press) well. Fight fiercely, and be patient.”

The union technically suspended the strike on May 13, though the MBC union’s fight to save “the last bastion” campaign persists.

In an interview with the liberal news source, Voice of the People, union leader Lee Geun-haeng stated, “This situation where the company takes disciplinary action against such a large number of union members augmented our anger even

His argument is in line with the press statement delivered on May 17 by the UN Special Rapporteur Frank La Rue who wrote in the statement, “the full respect for human rights, and in particular the right to freedom of opinion and expression has been diminishing [since the candlelight demonstrations].”


How Korea’s Major Broadcasting Companies Turned Into Political Channels

Mar 2008 Choi See-joong Appointed as Chairman of the Korean Communications Commissions (KCC).

Choi was known as “MB(Lee Myung-bak)’s mentor”

Koo Bon-hong Appointed as CEO of the YTN

Jun 2008 Chung Kuk-Lok Appointed as CEO of Arirang TV

Yang Hwee-boo Appointed as CEO of the Korea Broadcast Advertising Corporation (Kobaco)

Nov 2009 Kim In-kyu Appointed as CEO of the KBS, the largest broad-casting company in Korea
Feb 2010 Former MBC President Ohm Ki-young replaced by pro-government Kim Jae-chul
Apr 5

May 6

May 13

June 7

MBC Unionists Begin a General Strike, Demanding New President Kim’s Resignation

UN Special Rapporteur Frank La Rue Visits MBC Unionists

MBC Union Members Decide to Suspend Their Strike

Employment Termination Follows Strike Suspension; MBC Decides to Terminate Union Leader Lee Geun-haeng and Take Disciplinary Actions Against over One Hundred Union Members.

***High officials of nearly all the major broadcasting companies were replaced by those in favor of President Myung-bak Lee. CEOs of YTN, Arirang TV, Kobaco, and KBS helped President Lee in his presidential campaign as special assistants.