Sentencing of Trade Union Leader Han Sang-Gyun in South Korea

In November 2015, South Korea witnessed one of the biggest demonstrations in recent years against the then President Park Geun-hye for her policies that raised layoffs, dampened economic conditions, and even forced changes in textbooks that the government wished to change to its own form of uniform text. During a peaceful news conference after the event, the leader of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) Han Sanggyun was forcefully arrested for inciting illegal protests. Although President Park Geun-hye was impeached for bribery and corruption cases by the South Korea’s National Assembly earlier in December 2016, the case of Han Sanggyun still goes on.

In July 2015, Han Sanggyun was given a five-year sentence for his role in protests of November 2015. Amnesty International criticized the sentencing saying the protests were peaceful and it hinders free speech and expression across South Korea. Research for East Asia Researcher at Amnesty International, Arnold Fang had said, “Han Sanggyun is the latest victim of South Korea’s increasingly ruthless crackdown on peaceful dissent. His conviction is both unjust and shameful.”

After a recent appeal, the judges reduced the sentencing to three years, while imposing a fine of 500,000 won (US$ 430). He has been charged with violations under the problematic Assembly and Demonstration Act, for demonstrations in 2014 and 2015. The current Amnesty International’s East Asia Research Director, Roseann Rife again expressed discontent on the ruling. “Han Sanggyun should not be held criminally responsible for violent acts taken by a small number of individuals, simply because he was one of the organizers of protests that were largely peaceful. His prosecution and upheld conviction underline the authorities’ intolerance of the right to peaceful assembly.”

Apart from Han Sang-gyun there are five other members of KCTU under detention, while no working has been done by the officials over the Baek Nam-gi’s death, with other 100 protestors still under investigation for their role in the People’s rally of November 2015.



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