News & Statements

Justice for Jungwon Moon



On 9 March 2020, the funeral of horse jockey Jungwon Moon was held 102 days following his death. Moon, a member of the Korean Public Service and Transport Workers' Union (KPTU), took his own life on 29 November 2019, leaving a note which exposed the 'race of death' forced on jockeys and horse grooms by the Korea Racing Authority (KRA).

A horse jockey at the KRA's Lets Race Park in Busan-Gyeongnam, Moon was employed as a dependent contractor at the bottom of a deadly contracting chain, taking orders from horse trainers and their owners above him and under the authority of the KRA at the very top. In a system laced with corruption and cheating, jockeys are often forced to go slow or throw races or risk losing the chance to participate in future races. Because their income is tied to prize money under a system known as 'advanced horseracing', refusing these demands means losing the ability to support themselves and their families. Moon, who studied to become a horse trainer, also faced disadvantage in the review process as a member and someone outside the KRA's inner circles.

These systemic problems have led 7 jockeys and grooms at the Busan-Gyeongnam Lets Race Park to take their lives since the park opened in 2005. Yet the KRA has refused to make changes or take responsibility for Moon's death.

Following his death, Moon's wife Eunjo Oh, and his family joined forces with the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, the KPTU and a civil society coalition to fight to change the KRA and win justice for Moon. Their struggle lasted nearly 100 days, and involved marches and funeral processions, a car caravan, and the operation of a protest encampment and alter for Moon in downtown Seoul, which was eventually raided and torn down by police and hired thugs on 27 February.

Finally, after Oh began a hunger strike an agreement was reached with the KRA on 6 March. According to this agreement, the KRA will take steps to reduce undue competitive pressures, guarantee income and increase fairness for jockeys in Busan-Gyeongnam. The agreement also includes provisions on compensation for Moon's family and plans for a research project on improving the operation and licensing system in Busan-Gyeongnam in order to prevent further deaths.

On 9 March Moon's family and his supporters were finally able to hold Moon's funeral and send him to his rest.