Foreign delegates accused of threat to public order

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The Independent Online
The South Korean government last night served restriction orders on a group of visiting trade unionists, accusing them of jeopardising public order.

Four representatives of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), including two from Britain, were visited by police and warned that they would be deported if they continued to meet Korean trade unionists and attend protest rallies.

Members of the delegation accused the government of intimidation, and expressed fears that a second mission, led by the former head of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, Bill Jordan, may be refused entry when it travels to Seoul early next week.

The confederation, a Brussels-based umbrella group of 195 unions in 136 countries, has been sternly critical of Korea's revised labour law. The delegation has attended labour rallies and held highly publicised meetings with Kwon Young Kil, the head of the illegal Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU).

A statement issued by the ICFTU calls on the government to withdraw the legislation, cancel 20 warrants issued against KCTU members, and open a dialogue with its leaders with a view to legalising the union and its activities.

Late on Monday night, police visited the group in their hotel and warned that it was illegal for foreigners to visit and express support for the Korean strikers. Last Tuesday, according to Guy Ryder, the British director of the ICFTU's Geneva office, they were followed around Seoul by men in a black car. Last night each was presented with a restriction order.

"Your intervention to [sic] Korean workers strike would result in disturbing public peace and order, and the grave interests of the Republic of Korea, therefore such behaviour should be forbidden in accordance with Article 22 of the Korean Immigration Law," says the document, issued in the name of the justice minister. "Additionally, if you violate above measures from now on, you are informed that you will be deported by Article 46- 8 of the law."

"In my trade union career I have never experienced this kind of government interference in our stay and our business," the delegation's leader, Takashi Izumi, said. Marcello Malentacchi, of the International Metalworkers' Federation, accused the government of "intimidation".

A report will be submitted by the ICFTU to the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a Paris-based grouping of rich nations, which will convene a committee to consider the Korean trade union situation next week. When Seoul joined the OECD last December, it gave undertakings to allow its workers freedom of association which, according to the delegation, have been violated by the new labour law.

n London - The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions will hold a demonstration today outside the Korean Embassy in London. Representatives of Amnesty International and the Trades Unions Confederation will also be present.