‘We don’t have money’ said a six-year old daughter .. it broke father’s heart.

The following is an unauthoritative personal translation of a news article appeared in “OhmyNews” July 19, 2011 describing daily lives of Yoosung Enterprise union workers after 2 months of strike. As such this post will be removed immediately with the request of the author of original article or “OhmyNews”. Original article (in Korean) can be reached through the link at the bottom.

Skull dented by an iron pipe but the police play blind.

[Two months after Yoosung Enterprise strike]

Union “Company wants to reinstate selectively.” Company “We will accept all if they are sincere.”

“Special meal for today.”

On the meal plate were rice, kimchi, floured laver, and red pepper paste. Cool oyster soup accompanied them. Hyunsung Lee (false name, 42) said “Usually, we have rice and kimchi. We bring steamed rice from a nearby mill everyday and kimchi was provided by Choongnam Peasants League. That’s all.” Lee briskly put everything on the reporter’s meal plate into a large bowl and made a bibimbap in a moment.

Meals can be taken care of in this way but living in a temporary plastic house is truly a thing that makes people worn out. Rainy season turned the ground a mire bed and now the plastic house becomes an oven under the hot summer sunlight. People cannot take bath properly. Lee quipped “200 protesters are sharing just 2 showers.”

Members of Korea Metal Workers Union (KMWU) Yoosung Enterprise branch (union below) still cannot return to their homes as well as their jobs. Union’s strike requesting daytime 2-consecutive-shift (2-sift below) and company’s lockout took place already two months ago. Suffering forcible suppression by the police, union declared to return to work last Jun. 14. But the factory gate is barricaded by containers with barbed wires on top and high-rise watchtowers.

Company accepts union workers selectively. Among 560 union workers of Yoosung Enterprise Asan-Youngdong factory, about 300 returned to work on the ground of economic hardships. To hear the voices of those left behind, we set out to the protest site, the plastic house. It is in a farm just about 100m away from the Yoosung Enterprise Asan factory gate in Dunpo-myun, Asan-si, Choongnam.

“My 6-year old daughter said ‘we don’t have money’ … it broke my heart”

Sungsoo Ko (37) said “I didn’t know sleeping at night is this happy thing.” He used to work at night two weeks a month since he had started to work Jul. 2000. He said “One thing I really want to do the most is to spend my time with my family but I saw them only a few times during the last two months.”

He showed me his family picture stored in his cell phone. Two daughters aged 10 and 5 were smiling brightly. But the picture tears his heart whenever he sees it. He said “A while ago, I heard that my wife and big daughter cried out together at home because my big daughter had heard someone saying that ‘Your father living in a plastic house is a beggar who cannot buy you pretty clothes.’ at school.”

“My big daughter got retinoblastoma, a rare disease that develops tumors at her retina, when she was 2 years old. We had to remove one of her eyes and she wears a hearing aid. These things costed a lot. So far, my life has relied on the credit line. I wanted to live a normal life. So I cashed out all my retirement fund last Jan. I paid out almost all my debts and I rented a 35M KRW (~33,000 USD) house on the deposit basis in Youngdong-gun, Choongbuk. And, I don’t get paid for the last two months since the strike …”

Mr. Ko, a delinquent borrower, borrowed 7M KRW (~6,600 USD) through an insurance policy loan. His wife works in a restaurant as a part-timer paid 4,500 KRW (4.3 USD) an hour but the situation is not good. He just wants his return to work will not be delayed long.

Others also got teary as soon as interviews went to economic situations and families. Hyunsung Lee said “Jul. 16 was my 6-year old daughter’s birthday and I spent some time with my family. She usually presses me for presents but this time she told me ‘we don’t have money.’ It really broke my heart.”

He then continued “A child of my fellow said ‘bad man’ and punched a picture as soon as he saw a contractor in it. Many wives and children of family union saw union members, their husbands and fathers, being assaulted by those contractors. I feel really bad that kids might have been shocked awfully by that.”

“Hit by an iron pipe a contractor swung, skull got dented … what do the police do?”

When the union was on strike, conservative media and business magazines conveyed messages like “Hyundai-Kia factories may stop and Korean economy may falter” through all-out critical articles and demanded union to withdraw the strike and to return to work quickly. Although the company still locks out the factory and does not sit on the negotiation table even after the union declared to go back to work, those media stopped talking about Yoosung incident for a long time.

Junghoon Lee, the chairperson of emergency measures committee, said “Heejung Ahn, the Governor of Choongnam, remarked at the Choongnam Labor-Management-People-Administration conference that ‘company’s actions lack causes’. But the company accepts only those who write memos of resignation from the union. It intends to setup a company-sponsored union and to destroy current one.” Recently, a multi-union application was filed from Yoosung Enterprise.

He added “Union destruction is pushed forward at the Myungbak Lee’s government level. In particular, the police plainly side with the company.” The police setup a special investigation headquarter composed of 127 members citing that 108 policemen were injured at the confrontation between union and policemen-contractors in front of Yoosung Enterprise last Jun. 22.

Chairperson Junghoon Lee indicated “Injured policemen got mainly bruises. But the scale of special investigation headquarter is beyond that for the highly publicized ‘frog boys missing case’ where 5 boys gone missing.” Right now, 5 union leaders including Sungtae Kim, chairperson of union Asan branch, were arrested and 3 others are wanted by the police. Police subpoenaed about 70 union members and executed seizures and searches of protest site as well as Choongbuk headquarter of Korean Confederation of Trade Unions.

However, the police are not doing anything about the serious injuries of about 20 union members occurred in the same day. Choonjae Cho (37) said “At that site, many union members were literally covered with blood by the violence of contractors and the police are not doing anything about it. We cannot believe them.” Hit by an iron pipe wielded by a contractor, Mr. Cho also suffered a dented skull and a brain hemorrhage.

“Before that day, we saw contractors wielding iron pipes and practicing suppression themselves. We protested that and the police replied ‘You still don’t get hurt yet so it’s not a problem’ and I got hit by the iron pipe the next day. It even made me think I might die this way. I was carried to an emergency room and underwent a big surgery. In fact, it is an attempted murder. Only after things became controversial as my picture was released to public early July, they took my statement. But there’s no contact after that.

Right now, union members are continuing a tough struggle. One union member said “Company is interviewing everyone individually and threatens that there will be no more chance if I don’t come back this time. Also, since company keeps trying provisional seizure for damage compensation, union members are under tremendous psychological pressure as well.”

Sungsoo Ko remarked “A close fellow who lives with old mother and raises three kids after a divorce recently returned to work under economic hardships and psychological pressure. He kept saying ‘I’m so sorry’. To become an honorable father to my daughters, I will fight for collective reinstatement. I believe things will turn out fine since we are getting huge support from society.”

Yoosung Enterprise “It is not a selective reinstatement … We never demanded them to resign union”

In the mean time, Yoosung Enterprise remarked “It’s not a selective reinstatement. We are accepting all union members who express sincere intension to work.”

Director of Yoosung Enterprise Asan Factory Labor Division indicated that “We are accepting them individually because there can be union members who would do unlawful things as a retaliatory measure. All they have to do is to write a memo stating ‘I will work sincerely’ after individual interviews, but they insist collective reinstatement since they have other intentions.”

Regarding the allegation that company is trying to destroy current union, he said “We never demanded them to resign union. How can we destroy the union? It’s union’s lie that company coaxes and threatens them.”

  • Figure caption 1. In July 18 afternoon, members of KMWU Yoosung Enterprise branch are having lunch in a plastic house of a farm near Yoosung Enterprise, Oonyong-ri, Doonpo-myeon, Asan-si, Choongnam.
  • Figure caption 2. In July 18 afternoon, A KMWU Yoosung Enterprise member is doing a one-man protest with a picket which reads ‘Company should lift the lockout and accept collective reinstatement’ before the tight-shut front gate of Yoosung Enterprise, Oonyong-ri, Doonpo-myeon, Asan-si, Choongnam.
  • Figure caption 3. In July 18 afternoon, Sungsoo Ko (37), a member of of KMWU Yoosung Enterprise branch, who is on strike in a plastic house of a farm near Yoosung Enterprise, Oonyong-ri, Doonpo-myeon, Asan-si, Choongnam, is showing a picture taken with two daughters alongside to the reporter.
  • Figure caption 4. In July 18 afternoon, Choonjae Cho (37), a member of KMWU Yoosung Enterprise branch, whose skull was dented by an iron pipe wielded by a contractor last June 22 is explaining the circumstances at that time to the reporter in a hospital located at Seonghwan-eup, Cheonan-si, Choongnam.
  • You can see the original article here: http://www.ohmynews.com/NWS_Web/View/at_pg.aspx?CNTN_CD=A0001598354&CMPT_CD=T0001
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