His Excellency Dr Yoon-Je Cho
Embassy of the Republic of Korea
60 Buckingham Gate
London SW1E 6AJ
The Trades Union Congress, the national trade union centre for the UK with our 6.5 million members is concerned about the arrest and detention of the President of the Migrants' Trade Union (MTU), Torna Limbu, and Vice President Abudus Sabur on 2 May 2008. I urge you in the strongest possible terms to convey to your Government our belief that they need to start improving social relations in South Korea by ending repression of trade unions, including migrant trade unions. In particular, the President and the Vice-President of the MTU should be released without further delay, and allowed to continue their valuable and legitimate fight for migrant workers.
According to our information, Mr Limbu was arrested in front of the union office at 8:20pm, when he left the office together with the Vice General Secretary of the MTU. The two were surrounded by 10 to 15 immigration officers, who had clearly been waiting for them, and Mr. Limbu was violently forced into a van. The Vice General Secretary was not arrested.
One hour later, the MTU became aware that Vice President Abudus Sabur was also missing. They went to his home, only to find out that immigration officers had already been there to arrest him. The next day it became clear that he and Mr Limbu had both been sent to Cheongju Detention Centre. Mr Sabur was able to inform the MTU that he had recognised one of the arresting officers, as a person who sat nearby him at a fundraiser a week earlier.
The TUC believes that it is clear from the above that the two trade union leaders were targeted in connection with their trade union activities. There is a clear pattern of arresting leaders of the MTU and deporting them shortly after they have become elected to top positions in the union. The two former presidents of the union were also arrested and deported in a similar fashion.
Migrant workers, like all other workers, have the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Documented or not, all workers without distinction whatsoever have the right to freedom of association. The TUC would remind you that the arrest and detention of trade union leaders and activists are contrary to Korea's obligations under international law, including and especially, those deriving from its membership of the International Labour Organisation. Korea is still not fulfilling the commitments it made to the OECD and the ILO when it joined these world bodies to respect core labour standards, notably the right to freedom of association as enshrined in ILO convention 87.
I urge you to start improving social relations in South Korea by ending repression of trade unions, including migrant trade unions. In particular, I urge you to release the President and the Vice-President of the MTU without further delay, and to ensure that they are allowed to continue their valuable and legitimate fight for migrant workers.
I am copying this to Ministers in the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and to Members of the European Parliament and we will be making our protest public.
Issued: 10 May, 2008