Samsung’s no union policy claims another life

Yeom Ho-seok, the 33-year old chapter chair of the Korean Metal Workers’ Union (KMWU) Samsung Electronics Service Workers’ Local, committed suicide on May 17 in protest of Samsung’s labor repression. He left two notes, one for his parents and one for the union members, calling on them to succeed in the struggle for labor rights at Samsung.

Samsung’s no union policy claims another life

Yeom Ho-seok, the 33-year old chapter chair of the Korean Metal Workers’ Union (KMWU) Samsung Electronics Service Workers’ Local, committed suicide on May 17 in protest of Samsung’s labor repression. He left two notes, one for his parents and one for the union members, calling on them to succeed in the struggle for labor rights at Samsung.

Yeom was one of the founding members of the Samsung Electronics Service Workers’ Local and was elected chair of the Yangsan Center Chapter. The KMWU local has been in labor dispute with rolling strikes calling on Samsung to end the piece rate wage system that has left the workers in poverty, to respect trade union rights and to conclude a first collective bargaining agreement for the 1600 unionized workers’ wages and working conditions. After months of avoiding bargaining, Samsung began retaliating against the workers by reassigning their jobs to the non-unionized.  Samsung has clung to a “no union” corporate policy for some 75 years and the KMWU Samsung Electronics Service Workers’ Local is the first mass-membership union at Samsung in Korea.

Wake

Yeom’s wake was being held in the Seoul Medical Center Gangnam Branch when the Korean police broke in and took his dead body. With no warning, some 50 mourners found themselves sprayed with tear gas. The police arrested 25 union members and many suffered injuries.  According to local chapter leader, Yeom’s corpse has been moved to Haenglim Hospital mortuary in Busan City, some 390 km away. In response, the KMWU Samsung Electronics Service Workers’ Local have begun an all-out strike.

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Yeom recently participated in a strike beginning May 9 and joined the struggle in front of the Samsung Electronics Global Headquarters in Seoul from May 12th to 14th. He disappeared on May 15th. He was found on the 17th together with two suicide notes in Gang-neung. Writing in his suicide note his hope that “like the sun, which will rise again tomorrow, our local will win this fight without fail. (…) Continue the struggle until the day of victory.” 

Source: Korean Metal Workers Union