Samsung’s Documents Expose Union Busting


By Won Jong-il [ISC, member]

Samsung is South Korea’s biggest conglomerate. It is famous for having been union free ever since its foundation. It has, recently, been accused of creating documents containing detailed plans for busting the labor unions in its branches. The prosecutor’s investigation of the documents revealed that Samsung’s core think tanks were involved in drawing up the union sabotage plan.

Around 6,000 files were uncovered this year accidentally when prosecutors were probing into a separate case where Samsung had covered the legal costs of former president Lee Myeong-bak. The files contain elaborate strategies for sabotage such as “burn out plan” to mentally and physically tire unions to pressure them to quit.

Actually, it isn’t the first time Samsung’s attempts to destroy labor unions were exposed. In 2013, Sim Sang-jung, a Justice Party lawmaker disclosed the file “S(Samsung) Group’s Strategy on Labor-Management Relations”. Despite the document, the prosecutor’s office dismissed the case by concluding that the group’s core leadership had not been involved in the plans.

If we look further back, in 1997, documents written from 1987 to 1989 were leaked revealing that the company had identified and surveilled union members.

Until recently, Korea’s prosecutor and the Ministry of Employment had turned a blind eye to the group’s improper practices. However, in our post-2016-2017 candlelight protests, people are demanding a fairer society. In an April 23 press conference, civic groups,  Korea’s Metal Workers’ Union (KMWU) and Minbyun (Lawyers for Democratic Society) requested a reinvestigation of Samsung’s document and then filed an indictment. This is a critical moment for rooting out corruption in society.  Koreans have suffered for too long the deep-rooted abuse of power by conglomerates and the powerful. By revealing the truth and rooting out illegal practices, workers’ right and quality of life can be improved.