There Goes the Neighborhood: Samsung “Union” Allowed to Protest in Front Of Samsung Headquarters

The Korea Times has reported that the Administrative Court in Seoul has overturned the decision of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Force to disallow a rally in front of Samsung headquarters.  The rally was to honor the memory of a Samsung Electronics employee who died of leukemia.  Samsung has been accused of using chemicals in their manufacturing processes that are harmful to the health of workers.  Some have claimed that these specific chemicals are not being used in other developed nations.

Samsung and other large conglomerates are beginning to be treated equally by the government to other companies because of, inter alia, the realization that Samsung and other companies have abused their position to the detriment of the population.  Additionally, politicians are increasingly realizing that Korea future growth will likely come from SMEs and not large family-controlled conglomerates. 

The Korea Times quoting Yonhap news reported that:

The Seoul Administrative Court accepted the union’s request to cancel a police prohibition on the rally the union planned to hold later that afternoon to honor a Samsung Electronics employee who died from leukemia he allegedly contracted at work.

The landmark decision, the first of its kind, put a brake on a conglomerate-wide practice of restricting union rallies around company buildings by applying for their own rally before any request from unionists is made.

By law, those planning to hold an outdoor rally in a public place must report their plan to police at least 48 hours beforehand. When more than two organizations register rally plans for the same place, police have usually given the rights to the first applicant.

“There is no concern that permitting the rally would harm public welfare,” Judge Jin Chang-soo said in the court decision.

The worker-led union filed its petition with the court last month after the Songpa Police Station rejected its plan to hold a rally in front of the Samsung Electronics’ headquarters in southern Seoul, citing that a company-led union had already registered.

The plaintiff said the company-led union registered to hold rallies more than 130 times this year but never actually held any, arguing it was just a ploy to prevent other unions voicing their rights.

The worker-led union marked its first anniversary last week, vowing to “persistently fight” the management’s denial of its status.

Samsung has disallowed any labor union under a so-called “no-union management policy” since its founding. However, after a new labor law allowing workers to form multiple trade unions in a single workplace took effect last July, workers submitted an application to form the first worker-led union, which was formally recognized by the labor ministry. (Yonhap)

One of my offices in Seoul is housed in a building next to Samsung Electronics headquarters at Kangnam Station.  I assume we will not be opening the windows during the spring protest season.
Sean Hayes, IPG’s Co-Chair of the Korea Practice Team, may be contacted at:

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