News & Statements

KPTU Statement on Government Measures Concerning Kim Yong-gyun’s Death


It is Now Our Duty to Carry Out the Tasks Left to us by Kim Yong-gyun

KPTU statement on the measures announced by the South Korean government and ruling party (Feb. 5) in relation to the death of Kim Yong-gyun

58 days have passed since precariously-employed young worker Kim Yong-gyun died, and his funeral has still not been held. It has been 15 days since leaders of the &ldquoCivil Society Coalition for Justice for Precarious Young Worker Kim Yong-gyun&rdquo (civil society coalition) began their hunger strike calling for a resolution to this incident. Today, February 5 - New Year&rsquos Day - the government and ruling party announced measures in response to Kim&rsquos death.

The measures the government announced today fall far short of the demands that the civil society coalition, power plant workers and Kim&rsquos family have been making, which include eradication of the outsourcing of danger, investigation in to the causes of Kim&rsquos death and punishment of those responsible, insourcing and permanent direct employment for all precarious workers in the power industry and other measures to ensure that a similar accident does not occur. The KCTU Korean Public Service and Transport Workers&rsquo Union (KPTU) and the civil society coalition consulted with the government and ruling party in the development of a response, but the measures announced today are greatly lacking. KPTU and the civil society coalition are deeply angered that the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy and vested interests in the public institution bureaucracy, who have pursued privatisation and outsourcing for the last several decades, have not changed their attitude. The measures announced today include permanent employment for Kim&rsquos co-workers, but not directly by the five public power companies, but instead by a separate public corporation. No concrete plan for improving the situation of power plant light maintenance workers has been put forward, despite the fact that these workers experience and an even higher accident rate. We are gravely disappointed that we have not been able to completely counter the logic of capital and the public sector bureaucracy, which has led to the outsourcing of death.

Nonetheless, following collective discussions KPTU, the civil society coalition and Kim&rsquos co-workers have recognised that despite short-comings the government and ruling party&rsquos announcement today represents progress in relation to their original position, which was a complete denial of any responsibility. Furthermore, we feel we cannot delay Kim&rsquos funeral any longer. We are clear, however, that we cannot not simply rely on the government and ruling party to stop the killing of precarious workers caused by the outsourcing of death instead we recognise that it is our task to achieve this goal ourselves by uniting through our democratic and continuing to struggle.

It is also true that it would not have been possible to achieve the measures announced today without the unity of purpose of workers, the public, Kim&rsquos family and co-workers who came together with the civil society coalition and fought as one. Through this struggle we were able to win recognition of the principles of ending the outsourcing of danger and accountability of the principle company in the case of accidents involving subcontracted workers. The principle company (Korea Western Power) has agreed to ensure that subcontract workers are payed the wages originally agreed to, thus eliminating intermediary exploitation, and improve working conditions. Expanding the application of these principles throughout the public sector and to the private sector as well is an important task before us. Our struggle has formed the basis from which to challenge and reverse the drive towards fragmentation and privatisation pursued by government bureaucrats. And we have achieved the transfer of all fuelling and equipment operation workers like Kim to direct employment by a public corporation. In addition we have achieved the establishment of a special investigation committee to investigate the causes of Kim&rsquos death and the government, ruling party and employer have agreed to follow the recommendations of this committee. Given that so many problems have been left unsolved, the work of this committee to fully diagnose the situation and put forward recommendations for a fundamental solution in the future is vitally important. An agreement on the direct, permanent employment of light maintenance workers must also be reached.

Another important result of this tragedy was that the Occupation Safety and Health Act, which applies not only to power plants or the public sector, but to all workers, was revised for the first time in 30 years. All workers are in debt to Kim Yong-gyun for this. More than anything else, we ask the Korean public not to forget the things taught us over the last 50 days by Kim&rsquos death and by the struggle of his co-workers and his mother, Kim Mi-suk, and family. We have learned clearly that the outsourcing of danger and death must be stopped at all workplaces, regardless of whether they are in the public or private sector. The system which divides workers between principle companies and subcontractors, designating them permanent or precarious, must end.

We express our gratitude to all KCTU members, workers, members of the public and the international community who participated in this struggle with us. The struggle of KPTU and the civil society coalition to stop the misuse of precarious workers and the outsourcing of danger and to create safe workplaces where workers&rsquo lives are not sacrifices will continue. We ask you to remember Kim&rsquos tragic death and continue to fight with us until we realise the goals that were not achieved today. Recognising that these tasks are the duties of our democratic , we promise you that KPTU and Kim&rsquos co-workers will do everything we can to fulfil our responsibility by continuing to stand at the forefront of a renewed struggle.

KCTU Korean Public Service and Transport Workers' Union