USW Condemns Arrest of Korean Labor Leader

Contact: Ben Davis, 412-562-2501,

(Pittsburgh) – The United Steelworkers union (USW) today strongly condemned the May 4 arrest of Youn Taeg-gun, first vice president of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), who was detained for his leading role in organizing a general strike on October 20, 2021.

Youn’s arrest is particularly outrageous given that International Labor Organization (ILO) Conventions 87, protecting freedom of association and the right to organize, and 98, protecting the right to organize and collective bargaining, entered into force in the Republic of Korea on April 20.

Youn led the strike in part because at the time, KCTU president Yang Kyeung-soo was in detention on similar spurious charges. Like President Yang before him, Youn has been charged with violation of the Infectious Disease Control Act on Demonstration and Assembly, despite the KCTU’s proper observance of COVID-19 protocols.

The strike took place shortly after representatives of the USW, UAW and AFL-CIO visited the Korean embassy in Washington D.C., to demand Yang’s freedom. The USW also raised the arrest of President Yang and the interrogation of Vice President Youn during the meeting of the U.S.- Korea Free Trade Agreement Labor Council on April 26.

Vice President Youn’s arrest, in the context of current discussions on the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework and President Biden’s upcoming visit to South Korea, can only be seen as an expression of the Korean government’s intention to disregard fundamental labor rights and international conventions.

The USW calls on the Korean government to openly adhere to these ILO conventions by releasing Youn and ending police harassment of trade unionists for engaging in legitimate union activity.

The USW represents 850,000 workers employed in metals, mining, pulp and paper, rubber, chemicals, glass, auto supply and the energy-producing industries, along with a growing number of workers in health care, public sector, higher education, tech and service occupations

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Media Contacts

Communications Director:
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USW@WORK (USW magazine)
Editor R.J. Hufnagel

For industry specific inquiries,
Call USW Communications at 412-562-2442

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United Steelworkers
Communications Department
60 Blvd. of the Allies
Pittsburgh, PA 15222