SOUTH KOREA: Civil society launches 'Samsung Labor Watch'

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2013/12/09

1. South Korea is often called as the Republic of Samsung. Those people who are supported by Samsung become politicians and then rule the Korean society. Thus the country's democracy has been broken down by Samsung. As business controls society, Samsung is more powerful than the Korean government. In addition, Samsung has destroyed environment. For example, a Samsung-owned barge caused the massive oil spill off South Korea's west coast in 2007. Now the company joins in the construction of a naval base in Jeju Island which has been recognized as an ecological reserve by UNESCO. The toxic gas leak at Samsung Electronics' semiconductor plant has been terrorizing residents. Samsung is founding its private school so that the right to education becomes a privilege. The company also deprived evictees of their homes and workers suffered from occupational diseases of their health rights and lives. All of these have happened because of the wealth and power of Samsung.

2. Samsung's wealth comes from workers. Samsung, however, tramples on labor rights and human rights while maintaining its no-union management policy. The company shadows, kidnaps, conciliates, and threatens those workers who attempt to form a union. It also infringes the privacy and basic human rights of workers by tracking cell phone location and collecting personal information. Samsung refuses to allow unions, files a suit against those workers who have made unions, and disrupts the lawful activities of labor unions. These are against corporate ethics and social responsibility.

3. We cannot allow Samsung's wrongdoing any more. Hence, Korean civil organizations of human rights, academia, religion, law, and culture and arts found an organization called as 'Samsung Labor Watch' and plan to monitor Samsung. We are going to issue the Samsung Labor Watch Declaration on December 10, the day of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We believe that changing Samsung is the way of changing Korean society. Samsung should accept social responsibility and renounce its no-union management policy and nepotistic system. Samsung Labor Watch will put its efforts to protect and promote labor and human rights in Samsung. We look forward to your attention.

Time/Date: 7pm 10 December 2013 Place: The Catholic Center in Seoul, South Korea

Declaration:

Change Samsung! Change Our Lives! Change the World!

We are living in the time of crisis where the capital dominates. Civil rights, represented with 'freedom and equality,' pale in comparison to the capital buyout and lost the strength. The fear of layoff and unemployment, non-regular workers whose rate goes beyond 50\% of the total workforce and severe competition of the labor market that shows the youth no hope force the labor rights out on the street. Human dignity has degraded into the instrument of profits and the society is suffering from the competition to survive. The power of capital becomes stronger to build a kingdom whereas the power of laborers is shattered into pieces with the heavy weight of survival. Our society has become a structural part of cruel exploitation and plunder, where the powerless majority has to be sacrificed for the powerful minor monopolies that cannot be checked and balanced.

Who is it that uses indirect and irregular employment the most, packaged in consignment and service? Who is it that drastically expands the number of part-time irregular workers under the name of 'smart working'? Who is behind forced demolition that destroys livelihood and lives of the impoverished people? Who is it that destructs the environment of Jeju, a beautiful island, and peaceful Western sea? Who is it that deprives the laborers of their lives by gas leak at factories around the city and tries to conceal the truth? Who is it that leads the privatization of public enterprises which produce and manage the public goods? Who is it that kills laborers with industrial accidents, also called corporate manslaughter, and occupational cancers, and still overtly conceals their faults? Who is it that funds history distortions that praise Japan and dictatorship? Who is it that makes and corrupts scholarship holders everywhere in the polity, bureaucracy, legislature, mass media, and academia? Who is it that transforms the national policy into the private interest?

We know the answers to these questions. We know that Samsung is at the center of all the issues. As democratic citizens, it is shameful but we need to tell the truth; the truth that when everyone was praising Samsung for its achievement over the world, their wrongdoings have faded into the backwaters of silence. It is our silence that made the Kingdom of Samsung that overrides the constitution and the laws. Democracy is kept outside the door of its kingdom. Samsung is a kingdom of frozen soil where no rights or criticism is allowed to those other than the leading family. Those who claim for labor rights are only cruelly retaliated and expelled, kidnapped and confined, conciliated and threatened, fired and prosecuted. The Lee family's controlling power through cross-shareholding is unlimited. Labor and human rights of Samsung laborers are completely trampled under the name of 'non-union management.' Samsung's 'non-union strategy of labor-management,' which is another name for destruction of labor union, has climbed beyond the barrier of Samsung and expanded to every company in Korea and Samsung's overseas companies. There is ridicule that 'the president of Korea is a figurehead of Samsung.' Can we say that such joke is inappropriate? What is covered with silence can never be the truth despite how splendid it is.

It is evident that with Samsung, a company that dominates 30\% of the nation's economy, unchanged, the world cannot be changed. With Samsung unchanged, our lives cannot be changed. In order to speak of labor rights and human rights, we need to change Samsung first. Samsung laborers are protesting against the suppression and oppression of the Kingdom of Samsung. Forced silence is cracking and about to burst. In order to defeat the unjust power of Samsung, stretched to every part of the society, the laborers need 'pertinacious' partners. To become such partners, to face up to the distorted reality and confront Samsung head-on, and to set up labor and human rights that have infringed by Samsung, with our passion, we hereby declare the founding of 'Samsung Labor Watch'.

We will change Samsung. We will change the world. Eventually, we will change our lives.

December 10, 2013

Samsung Labor Watch

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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

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