|A member of the Korea Railroad Corp. (KORAIL) union resists an attempt by police to arrest him at a building in downtown Seoul, where union leaders were believed to be holded up, Sunday, the 14th day of a strike to protest what they claim is a government plan to privatize the state-run firm.|
/ Korea Times photo by Shin Sang-soon
Union confirms leaders escape safely
By Nam Hyun-woo
Police forced their way into a union office in downtown Seoul to apprehend leaders of a railway workers’ strike that entered its 14th day, Sunday. Their day-long operation, however, was in vain, as the leaders fled before the police raid.
From 9:40 a.m., police deployed some 600 officers at the Kyunghyang Daily building, which houses the main office of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), a militant union umbrella group.
The leaders, including Kim Myong-hwan, the Korea Railway Corp. (KORAIL) union head, were believed to be between the 13th to 16th floors of the building. Around 6:30 p.m., police finished searching it from top to bottom, but failed to find the people they were seeking.
According to KCTU officials, Kim sent text messages to union members at 8 p.m., saying, “I and other union leaders escaped safely.” Arrest warrants have been issued for Kim and other senior union members.
The KCTU said the leaders were not in its offices. “There is no single railway worker wanted by the police in this KCTU building, where police messed up all day,” KCTU spokesman Jung Ho-hee wrote on his Twitter account.
A standoff between police and strikers along with supporting citizens continued into the evening and 135 union members were taken into custody amid fierce clashes while trying to block the 600 police officers in the operation.
About 600 members of the KCTU and KORAIL unionists tried to block the entry of police by locking doors with chains. Police used pepper spray against the unionists who responded with water hoses. No serious injuries, however, were confirmed.
Denouncing the forced entry, the KCTU announced that its members will launch a strike from Dec. 28.
Entering its third week, the strike has affected subway and high-speed KTX services, and decimated cargo train operations. Out of 27,000 total employees of KORAIL, some 8,700 had been taking part in the strike and of them, 1,070 returned to their workplaces, as of Sunday.
According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, subway services in metropolitan areas will be reduced to 85.3 percent of normal levels from Monday.
KTX services will be decreased to 73 percent while other slower train services would run at a 61.2 percent operation rate. The most hit by the strike are cargo trains, with a 58.7 percent operation rate Sunday.
Those apprehended were sent to 10 police stations in Seoul and booked for obstructing the execution of official business.
Five lawmakers including Rep. Kim Jae-yeon of the Unified Progressive Party, staged a sit-in in support, but were forced to leave the scene.
From early morning, police seized adjacent areas of the building with a total of 4,000 officers and set up air mats to prevent casualties. Traffic in the area had to be diverted.
The police move came after a Seoul court issued arrest warrants for six union leaders who rejected summons to appear for questioning.
The forced entry into the KCTU building, long considered a “safe haven” for union members, was the first of its kind since 1995 when it was established.
Security and Public Administration Minister Yoo Jeong-bok said, “The government will take strong measures against any attempt to intervene in law enforcement.”
“The government has repeatedly stated that the setting up of an affiliate by KORAIL is not privatization of the railway service, but the strikers continue to claim this is the case. This is an illegal strike,” he said.
Kim Han-gil, chairman of the main opposition Democratic Party (DP), visited the KCTU office and said he sent a letter to President Park Geun-hye, requesting her to take “measures to stop any violence.”
“I’ve been to the scene of the forced entry and I’m deeply concerned over possible mishaps,” he wrote.
The strike started after KORAIL decided to create a subsidiary for a new KTX service. Three previous administrations had tried railway privatization but failed due to the union’s resistance.
“The strike is an illegal strike, taking citizens’ transport hostage. Law enforcement measures by police are aimed at protecting citizens’ rights,” said Yoon Sang-hyun, vice floor leader of the Saenuri Party.
He added that the KCTU’s “violent interruption” of law enforcement was clearly unlawful, saying the KCTU is also “subject to the country’s law."
The DP denounced the police action. DP floor leader Jun Byung-hun told reporters: “This is a symbolic event of the Park Geun-hye administration, showing that it disavows communication with the public.”
노조원들 물뿌리며 강력 저항…경찰, 진입방해 120여명 연행
철도파업 14일째를 맞은 22일 오전 경찰이 파업과 관련해 체포영장이 발부된 철도노조 지도부에 대한 검거·체포 작업에 본격 착수했다.
경찰은 이날 오전 9시40분께부터 김명환 철도노조 위원장 등 노조 지도부에 대한 체포영장을 제시하고 경향신문 건물로 강제 진입을 시도했다.
민주노총 본부 사무실에 경찰 등 공권력이 투입된 것은 1995년 민주노총 설립 이래 처음이다.
경찰은 오전 11시 10분부터는 1층 건물 유리문을 모두 깨고 입구를 막아선 조합원·시민들 120여명을 차례로 끌어내고 조금씩 건물 안으로 진입, 오후 1시께 1층 현관 등을 장악했다.
경찰은 오후 3시 30분 현재 건물 11층에서 진입을 막는 노조원들과 대치하고 있다.
노조 관계자들은 13층 노조사무실로 향하는 계단에 의자·책상 등 가구들로 바리케이트를 설치하고 물을 뿌리며 경찰의 진입을 막고 있다.
경찰은 바리케이트 설치로 진입이 어렵자 반대쪽 서편 출입구를 이용, 13층 노조 사무실로 진입을 시도하는 것으로 전해졌다.
13층까지 향하는 건물 계단에는 현재 600여명의 노조원들이 연좌 농성을 하며 경찰 진입을 막았다.
지금까지 경찰은 노조 관계자 120여명을 공무집행 방해 혐의로 연행했으며 이들은 마포·강남·도봉 등 9개 경찰서에서 나눠 조사를 받고 있다.
이날 철도노조 간부 검거를 위해 경찰 체포조 600여명이 투입됐고 47개 중대 총 4천여명의 경찰이 배치됐다.
경찰은 외부인의 건물 출입을 막고 있으며 경향신문 건물 앞 정동길은 안전을 위해 차량 통행이 전면 통제된 상태다.
경찰은 민주노총 본부 사무실 13~14층에 체포영장이 발부된 김명환 철도노조 위원장을 포함, 6∼7명의 노조 간부가 은신중인 것으로 보고 있다.
민주노총과 철도노조는 '민주노총에 대한 압수수색 영장이 발부된 것은 아니기 때문에 본부 사무실로 진입하는 것은 불법'이라며 '건물이 좁아 경찰과 충돌이 발생하면 위험하니 강제 진입은 안 된다'며 강력 반발했다.
민주노총 사무실 안에는 경찰 진입을 막기 위해 이상규·김재연 의원 등 통합진보당·정의당 의원 7명을 포함, 500여명의 조합원과 시민이 비상 대기했으나 의원들 전원은 오전중 격리 조치됐다.
통합진보당 의원 등과 노조원들은 철도 파업에 대해 경찰이 업무방해 혐의를 적용한 것 자체가 부당하다며 경찰 진입을 막아섰다. 일부 노조원들은 건물 14층에서 소화전 호수로 물을 뿌리며 경찰 진입을 막으려 안간힘을 썼다.
경찰은 이날 건물 주변 바닥에 만일의 사고에 대비, 매트리스 2개를 설치했다.
경찰은 한편 철도노조 대전지방본부 고모(45)씨와 영주지역본부 윤모(47)씨 등 노조 간부 2명에 대해 업무방해 혐의로 구속영장을 신청했다.