The National Intelligence Service (NIS), the chief security agency of South Korea, invaded, confiscated and searched the central office of
the Korean Health and Medical Workers’ Union (KHMU)on the morning of the 18th.
NIS has launched a sweeping crackdown on the labor movement. On Wednesday, January 18, 09:00 AM, about 20 investigators from NIS and the Korean National Police Agency (KNPA) entered the central office of KHMU in Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul. On the grounds that there was "suspicion of violating the National Security Law," they seized and searched the desk and personal belongings of one of the union chief members.
During the raid, NIS and KNPA deployed 18 police buses around the central office of KHMU, and more than 200 police officers were stationed in front of the main gate of the healthcare union office, creating a scene as if they were investigating major criminal cases and arresting criminals.
At the same point of the time, seizures and searches were carried out in parallel at various locations, including the head office of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU).
On the 19th, at the moment, a seizure and search of the office of the Korean Construction and Engineering Workers’ Union is underway.
Looking at the current abrupt crackdowns against labor movement by NIS, it seems obvious that the current government planned to manipulate media and brainwash the public with an aim to cover up President Yoon Suk-youl's incompetence and maladministration.
Such suppression was also intended to make trade unions look like anti-state organizations, to stoke public hatred toward labor unions and isolate unions from the rest of the society.
This witch-hunt, a preliminary work of the government for its pro-business and anti-labor policy, will keep KCTU and other democratic unions stranded and help the conservative government push their own polices at will.
Currently, the government is pursuing an evil "labor reform" aimed at increasing working hours, reducing wages, promoting privatization of public services, and restricting trade union activities.
Over the couple of years, Korean people have been suffering from inflation and economic crisis. As South Korea entered a low-birth, super-aged society, we are also losing hope for the future. Then, what on earth is the government supposed to do? Instead of trampling on labor unions and democracy through long-standing repression named “for national security”, the government should take measures to overcome the economic crisis and take care of the lives of the people who have struggled from inequality and polarization. However, Yoon Suk-youl administration is wielding the old blade of repression for so called “national security”.
During the former military dictatorships of Park Chung-hee, Chun Doo-hwan, and Roh Tae-woo, as well as the Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye administrations, they fabricated numerous espionage rings and suppressed the labor and progressive movements by emphasizing “national security” with the Korean version of McCarthyism. However, they failed to obscure the truth of history at the end of the day.
We at KHMU have always stood by the people and proudly fought to keep patients safe, reduce the burden of medical bills, and protect the public nature of healthcare. Although the government is trying to mutilate and curb our union with the planned crackdown, we will never be discouraged and will confidently carry out activities to protect the health rights of one million health and medical workers and 50 million people in Korea.
Public Statement By the Korean Health and Medical Workers’ Union
[Statement] We strongly condemn the National Intelligence Service’s search and seizure on the Korean Health and Medical Workers’ Union (dated on January 18, 2023)
We strongly condemn the government’s suppression of the labor movement under the guise of “national security”.
We will continue to fight vigorously to crush the repression of the labor movement and the government’s justification of its crackdown under the name of “national security” to appeal to the public.
The National Intelligence Service invaded, seized, and searched the central office of KHMU on the morning of the 18th.
○ We strongly condemn the repression of the security organizations against labor movement.
○ The National Intelligence Service and police officers seized and searched the central office of KHMU from about 9:00 AM this morning. The National Intelligence Service mobilized as many as 18 police buses and dozens of police officers to raid the office and seized and searched for more than three hours from 9:00 AM to 12:50 PM.
○ Beforehand, KHMU had shown its intention to cooperate with the seizure and search in the presence of lawyers. Nonetheless, dozens of agency members and police officers were mobilized to create a sense of intimidation.
○ Today's incident is a revival of the National Security Law, a relic of the old era, by the current administration in 2023. They mobilized the National Intelligence Service in order to suppress trade union activities and manipulate public opinion on a large scale. That is, from our interpretation, this government has now launched a massive repression of the labor movement.
○ This is an attempt to isolate KCTU and KHMU, which have vowed to take the lead in fighting for labor rights in 2023 against the repression of the Yoon Suk-youl administration’s anti-labor policies. And to this end, they have now tried to manipulate public opinion through crackdown against unions under the name of “national security”, and finally to break the brunt of union struggles.
○ No one can cover the sky with his palm. We will never succumb to the government's planned crackdown for their own version of “national security”. We strongly condemn the repression of the labor movement and will spare no effort to wage an active struggle.