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ITF intervenes to prevent ‘politically motivated’ arrest of South Korean trade union leaders

news 25 Apr 2022
  • Bongju Lee, President of the Korean Public Service and Transport Workers’ Union Cargo Truckers’ Solidarity Division (KPTU-TruckSol) and Geon-yeong Kim, KPTU-TruckSol Incheon Regional Branch Chair had been threatened with arrest by authorities.
  • The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and its South Korean affiliates had slammed these threats as ‘politically motivated’.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has intervened to prevent the arrest of what it called the ‘politically motivated’ arrest of two trade union leaders by authorities in South Korea.

The threat of arrest related to protests held more than seven months ago and were made despite either man having been formally indicted on charges related to the warrant. Authorities were preparing to make the arrests using powers which allow the police to detain suspects while they are under investigation, though both men had pledged to cooperate fully with any investigation.

The move came after the election of South Korea’s new, right-wing president-elect Yoon Suk-yeol, who has threatened to attack trade unions and labour rights. The ITF had accused authorities of carrying out attempts to arrest and detain trade unionists in order to sabotage ongoing national negotiations over the extension of the Safe Rates, the system through which owner-operator truck drivers negotiate standards for pay and conditions. 

On the release of the two leaders, ITF General Secretary Stephen Cotton commented:

“We are glad the judge reviewing the warrant listened to reason and chose not to detain Brothers Lee and Kim. Their imprisonment would have been a severe violation of civil liberties.”

“However, we are very concerned that the attempt to imprison them in the middle of a positive effort to protect the safety of truck drivers and road users in Korea is reflective of the repressive and irrational nature of the incoming Yoon Seok-youl administration.”

“We will continue to support KPTU-TruckSol in their fight to make Safe Rates permanent and expand the system to more sectors,” said Cotton.

The ITF has called for a global week of Solidarity for Korean Safe Rates from 10 to 17 May to support KPTU-TruckSol’s on-going campaign. For more information contact

For more information, contact: Wol-San Liem on