A six-lane roundabout in front of the Gwangyang Steel Plant in South Jeolla Province at around 5.30am on 31 March. Police officers in a ladder truck were approaching a 7-metre-high steel watchtower to arrest A (56), the secretary general of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, who had been staging a sit-in on the illegally installed steel structure two days earlier.
As the police approached, he held out a so-called “jungle knife” (42cm) from the top of the watchtower. Jungle knives are used to chop down trees in dense forests. In addition to shouting, he also wielded a metal pipe and sticks. In the process, three police officers suffered bruises and abrasions on the backs of their hands and shoulders. After the confrontation, he was subdued by the police and was urgently arrested on suspicion of obstruction of justice.
In the middle of a six-lane road…a 7-metre watchtower and a barricade
A senior metal worker of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), who staged a high-profile sit-in by erecting a 7-metre-high watchtower on a road near POSCO’s Gwangyang Works in Kumho-dong, Gwangyang-si, Jeollanam-do, on the morning of the 31st of last month, resisted police officers who tried to arrest him by swinging rods. Yonhap
Allegations of excessive force have been raised over the police arrest of the union officials who were staging a sit-in in the middle of the road. While the union claims that they were hit in the head with a police baton in the process of forcible suppression, the police counter that it was a legitimate act of public service.
According to the Jeonnam National Police Agency, police arrested A, the secretary general of the metalworkers’ union, on the same day on suspicion of obstructing the execution of special public duties and obstructing general traffic. A, along with B, 58, the head of the Metal Workers’ Union, who was arrested the day before, allegedly set up a 7-metre watchtower on the road and held an illegal demonstration from 9:20 p.m. on the 29th of last month.
KCTU “Police, murderous violence”
A metal worker of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), who staged an illegal protest by setting up a 7-metre-high watchtower on a road near the POSCO Gwangyang Steel Plant in Kumho-dong, Gwangyang-si, Jeollanam-do, on the morning of 31 March, throws a chair at the police officers who arrested him. Yonhap
There are two main issues on which the KCTU claims the police used force. The KCTU claimed that the arrest of Mr A, who was injured in the head, was caused by “truncheon violence with police batons”.
It also claimed that the police had used so-called “back handcuffs” to arrest Mr B, a metalworker, the day before, calling it “murderous brutality”. The police allegedly unilaterally pressed his neck with their knees and handcuffed him behind his back while subduing him.
The Korean Trade Union Confederation (KTUC) held a press conference at the National Assembly on the same day and declared a general strike against the government over the alleged excessive force. As a result, the one-day labour-management meeting, which was scheduled to be the first since the inauguration of the Yoon administration메이저놀이터, was also disrupted.
Police “Can handcuff suspects when they resist”
Police detain the head of the Korean Federation of Metalworkers’ Unions in front of Posco’s Gwangyang Steel Plant in Gwangyang, South Jeolla Province, on 30 March. Yonhap News
In response, the police said, “We arrested him according to legal procedures.” They explained that during the arrest, Mr B was violently resisting the officers and fell down, and that the officers touched his neck with their knees rather than crushing it.
The police said that “the back handcuffs were lawfully used in accordance with the guidelines for the use of handcuffs and other restraints, which state that they may be used if the suspect resists.” The police also said, “The use of the baton on A was forced upon him because he wielded a weapon or threw a chair at the police during the arrest process.”
“POSCO froze wages for four years” high-profile protest
The Jeollanam-do National Police Agency said it is investigating the arrest of a metalworker from the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions who staged an illegal rally by erecting a 7-metre-high watchtower on a road near POSCO’s Gwangyang Steel Plant in Kumho-dong, Gwangyang-si, Jeollanam-do, on 31 March. Pictured are weeding tools, iron sticks and stone barrels seized by police at the scene. Yonhap News
According to police, A and others climbed the watchtower from 11 p.m. on March 29, calling for the guarantee of the “three labour rights” of subcontracted workers. “POSCO has frozen wages for four years, and the three labour rights of employees of subcontractors are not being protected,” the union claimed.
The next day, on the morning of the 30th of last month, they tried to bring in a 20-litre water container with diesel fuel tied to a rope, but were stopped by police. The police then made emergency arrests, claiming that they “interfered with firefighters’ rightful execution of their duties” as they prevented them from installing air mats to prevent falling accidents.
An official from the Jeonnam National Police Agency said, “Illegal gatherings will be dealt with strictly in accordance with the law and principles, such as dispersing them on site.” “If they interfere with the execution of official duties, such as assaulting police officers in the process of law enforcement, they will be immediately arrested on site and dealt with judicially.”