Ssangyong Factory Occupation raided by riot police

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Malcy
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Jun 27 2009 22:33
Ssangyong Factory Occupation raided by riot police

Just saw this report via Labourstart. Korean riot police have raided the occupation of the Ssangyong car plant in South Korea. The report is short and it isn't clear if the occupation was dispersed or if the workers managed to fight back and defend the occupation. Presumably the workers were prepared for this and from Loren Goldner's report it sounds as if other workers had been coming in from elsewhere to defend the occupation.

http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/national/2009/06/26/32/0302000000AEN20090626006400315F.HTML

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Steven.
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Jun 27 2009 23:02

Where is Loren Goldner's report?

If someone could write this up as a news story for us that would be excellent - just click submit content - news

Malcy
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Jun 28 2009 01:22

It's in the news section under Pyeongtaek strike (the name of the place in Korea).

Malcy
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Jul 1 2009 23:46

The latest situation

http://blog.jinbo.net/CINA/?pid=1872

Android
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Jul 17 2009 01:40

World Socialist Web Site (WSWS-ICFI) is reporting that the South Korean government is stepping up preparations for a police assault in order to break the eight-week long occupation.

related links:
Workers and their supporters talking to WSWS
South Korean government prepares to break Ssangyong occupation

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Hieronymous
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Jul 17 2009 08:32

.

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Hieronymous
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Jul 17 2009 08:18


Workers marching


Cops blocking the march

Yesterday (Thursday, July 16) about 4,000 unionists from the Korean Metal Workers Union rallied at Pyeongtaek city hall and then attempted to bring food, medicine and other supplies to the occupiers of the factory. Approximately 4,000 cops blocked the main highway and all smaller roads to the factory and prevented demonstrators from getting there, with much street fighting. There were mass arrests; the official number is 82. Many were injured.

(from a rough translation of first-hand accounts, union news reports and mainstream media sources)

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Steven.
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Jul 17 2009 09:45

Latest report from Loren Goldner here:
http://libcom.org/news/korean-sanggyong-strike-against-wall-17072009

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Hieronymous
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Jul 20 2009 20:38

***Strike Update***

(as of late a.m. hours Monday morning, July 20, 2009; from translated reports from Korean-language open source news website OhMyNews, and the ChamNews website)

Company refused to allow food and medicine to "illegal strikers." Representatives from Pyeongtaek court sent to factory to attempt to serve legal documents demanding the strikers leave the factory (see photos below).

Right now the strikers are in control of only the paint department; Ssangyong management turned off water and gas, but allowed the electricity to stay on. Since it's Monday, they attempted to have non-striking workers and company loyalist thugs ("kasudae" in Korean) return to the factory to begin the process of resuming production in all other departments (with 2,500 of the regular workers who were not laid off). These scabs ("blacklegs" to some of you) can be seen entering the factory with protection from strikers' slingshotted projectiles -- which most often are bolts.

Photos below are factory occupiers defending the paint department with slingshots.

The police estimate that only 600 people are still occupying the factory, but the union estimates that there are still around 1,000.

***Update (right now in real time)***

The police are approaching the factory with armored vehicles. 3,000 riot cops have arrived by police buses; 2 cop helicopters are hovering overhead.

Blue-roofed movable structures are to prevent scabs from getting hit by projectiles at they enter the factory. The netting the police are holding in front of them is for the same purpose.

The paint department is the building in the background, with the red flags along the top. The strikers have issued a statement saying "we are ready to fight to the death, to live as real human beings." They asked the scabs to honor the strike and stay out of the factory.

Also, the occupied paint department has 200,000 liters of thinner, paint, and other flammable liquids, making the situation incredibly dangerous should the cops use some kind of incendiary devices (as the police SWAT team did on January 20, 2009 when they attacked an occupied building in the Yongsan district of Seoul and killed 5 protesters and 1 cops in the ensuing fire, as part of the police attempt to suppress demonstrations against redevelopment and gentrification; see the libcom story: here).

Same view of the paint department, from a little further back.

Finally, at least 4 people have died during the strike. Two died from the stress of the layoffs that sparked the strike, that are thought to have been heart attacks. Another autoworker applied for voluntary early retirement, but committed suicide out of disgust. This morning, a union officials wife killed herself after Ssangyong company officials repeatedly visited her home and threatened her with financial damages due to the strike.

MT
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Jul 20 2009 08:26

Does anyone know of any South Korean libertarian communist groups active in solidarity or workplace struggles? Is there any campaign for broader contact and solidarity with workers who work in companies connected with Ssangyong Motors?

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Steven.
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Jul 20 2009 08:46

Damn, that's some crazy shit. Thanks for the update - let us know if anything changes.

The red flags, would they just be for the union colour, or would they be socialist?

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Ed
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Jul 20 2009 13:43

Hieronymous, are those your photos? Would you be up for putting them in an image gallery for us?
http://libcom.org/node/add/images

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Hieronymous
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Jul 21 2009 04:15
Steven. wrote:
The red flags, would they just be for the union color, or would they be socialist?

Most likely not the latter, with the government still prosecuting people for espousing radical ideas according to still-existent national security laws -- that remain on the books from the 1961-1987 dictatorships. Also, people active in the labor movement intentionally avoid identifying with anti-capitalist ideas, often called the "red complex," because of the stigma attached to socialism or communism in the popular imagination. This comes from effective anti-communist government propaganda that dates back to the 1950-1953 Korean War.

Most likely they are flags of the Korean Metalworkers Union.

MT wrote:
Does anyone know of any South Korean libertarian communist groups active in solidarity or workplace struggles? Is there any campaign for broader contact and solidarity with workers who work in companies connected with Ssangyong Motors?

There are a few groups that lean toward left communism, but they are small and marginal. Apparently they have a small rank-and-file connection to the occupation at the Ssangyong factory (but I'm willing to be corrected about this). See Internationalist Perspective's report on a 2006 meeting of internationalists in South Korea (here) to get a sense of the left communist presence there.

As for a campaign of workers connected with Ssangyong Motors elsewhere, or opportunities for international solidarity, I'll post any info that I can find.

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Hieronymous
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Jul 21 2009 16:03

***Occupation Update Tuesday, July 21***

Below is a map from yesterday showing where the competing forces were arrayed.

As of today, police have been inching closer with at least 3,000 riot cops getting within 100 meters of the paint department. Also 2,800 scabs (mostly non-striking regular workers) reported to work to try prepare the factory to resume production. In the photos below the red circles show concentrations of cops. The map indicates the number of police or company thugs (scabs) at each strategic location. The number of strikers occupying the paint department is listed as 600-700, while in one of the below videos a phone report from inside the paint building claims there are still 1,000 occupiers.

Tuesday, early evening, a helicopter dropping liquid tear gas:

And in the photo below the truck in the lower left is carrying huge foam mattresses indicating that from the cops' perspective, the end is near. The mattresses are laid out around occupied buildings in situations like this, where the strikers promise a fight to the death, because the cops fear that the strikers might leap from the top of the 4-story paint department building rather than be captured alive. Koreans often turn to martyrdom in extreme situations, which demonstrates the bizarre extremes to which militants push their struggles.

For a 3 1/2 minute series of video clips from yesterday (Monday) click: here

Here's a very rough chronology:

:45 - 1:05 defiant scabs marching to the factory

1:05 - 1:40 Ssangyong boss explaining why the scabs are coming to the factory to work

1:45 - 2:00 supporters from community showing solidarity

2:00 - 2:10 using fire hoses to try extinguish tire fires

2:12 injured scab

(Here's another 1 1/2 minute downloadable video with a slightly different version of the same events; note how some of the scabs are carrying umbrellas for protection from projectiles. To view click: here)

_________________________________________________________

Photos from last (Monday) night:

Photos from today.

As South Korean society overcomes its patriarchal past, women are now drafted into becoming riot pigs:

On Pyeongtaek city streets, blocking all access to the factory:

Company loyalist goons, impersonating cops in order to be more disruptive to the occupation, setting up barbed wire to secure the perimeter of the factory:

The fearless (?) media:

And some more from yesterday:

Police sound truck:

With the water cut off and the siege preventing resupply of food, the occupiers are having to live on rice balls mixed with whatever other food they can scavenge:

***Latest Update***

Media workers are striking in solidarity, in an attempt to inspire a general strike.

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Steven.
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Jul 21 2009 08:58

That's great news about the media workers - spreading the strike is the best hope that these workers have of winning.

Thanks again for that update, those photographs are amazing

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Jul 22 2009 15:28

Korean Media workers began a strike against new laws being debated in parliament that would give media conglomerates (mostly newspaper "chaebol") monopolistic control of all forms of media, à la Clear Channel in the U.S. (especially the lucrative market for cable media).

Here's their rally:

Symbolically smashing ice to stop the "evil" new media law:

____________________________________________________

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), the formerly outlawed, formerly left leaning umbrella grouping of mostly skilled unionists, has declared a general strike from tomorrow, Wednesday July 22, to Friday, July 24, to be followed with a nationwide labor rally on Saturday. If workers go out, that should send thousands of strikers from other workplaces to Pyeongtaek to attempt to support the occupation.

But general strikes declared by the KCTU union leadership from the top-down usually are only partially followed, especially when they are such timid short-term actions -- as is the upcoming 3-day attempt at a work stoppage.

____________________________________________________

The latest reports from the Ssangyong factory occupation is that the police strategy seems to be to starve them with the siege cutting off water and food. Yet the occupiers defend their position by using nuts and bolts as slingshot projectiles with an effective range of 200-300 meters. They've also used molotov cocktails as a shorter range defensive weapon.

Weapons cache seized by police (?):

Mike Harman
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Jul 21 2009 18:39

Got this from Loren:

This is an up-to-date report on the situation of the Ssangyong strike, by a worker from a nearby plant.

This is the biggest class confrontation in Korea in years.

I have a way to send money directly to the rank-and-file (not the union bureaucrats). If anyone wants to help, contact me off list. It's the least we can do.

Loren
lrgoldner@yahoo.com

As We finished night shift work at o5:30 this morning, we went to Pyungtaek in front of gate of Ssangyong where the struggles going on just like yesterday.

At around 09:00 to 10:00 there are many buses loaded with riot police were arriving around the gate, and approximately 20 cars for fire fighting are arriving also.

and as 2,000 riot police are tring to access near paint plant, the workers are responding with a slingshot and sometimes molotov coctails. That slingshot is too big and using bolt and nut as a bullet, so it's distance is so long ( 200 ~ 300m)as to attack enemy shockingly.

As Tires that were installed in an effort to defend are burning, the black smoke is covering all the sky of factory areas.

The company cut off water and gas supplies and enforced a blockade providing all materal for workers from outside, even medical supplies, /maybe firstly, they are trying to use a wearing down strategy in order to get workers out of paint plant spontaneously.

After coming back from that battle site for today's night work, I heard news that the police helicopter are spreading tear gas against workrs who are fighting on the housetops.

As of 21 Jul. today
The KCTU declared general strike mainly for supporting Ssangyong strike from 22 to 24th Jul. and slated for nationa wide labor rally on 25th Sat Jul.

and the KMWU, the main affiliated power of KCTU will be launcing part strike on 22 and 24 in support of this strike and on going negotiation .

Hence, tomorrow more than 5,000 members would be at the centeral gate of Ssang yong, and fightings will tale place again

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Jul 22 2009 08:24

***Occupation Update Wednesday July 22, 2009***

The cops are closing to within about 50 meters of the paint department.

Map showing the new assault routes as the cops close in. The arrow on the lower right is where the strikers have been putting the tire fires, which is between the main entrance to the factory and the paint building (which is directly above and to the left of the tip of the arrow):

Helicopters have been dropping some kind of toxic chemical on the occupiers, as can be seen below:

The cops are also using armored trucks to spray liquid tear gas:

Ssangyong management has been hiring thugs, who are basically mercenaries specializing in strike breaking, who can be seen using slingshots to attack the factory occupiers:

These thugs are also equipped with telescoping batons, seen here:

The following photos are the mercenaries hired by management, who are equipped with their own clear shields and are slingshotting bolts at the occupiers from nearby roofs:

All of these are the hired strike breaking thugs, who function much like the Pinkertons did during the class war in the U.S.:

Last night around 2:00 or 3:00 a.m., around 30 thugs from the company destroyed the tent encampments of the families and strike supporters outside the factory:

***Breaking News Update (16:30 Korea Time)***

Medical teams have been allowed into the factory, but had been prevented up till now:

At least 3,000 members of the Korean Metal Workers Union (KMWU) are presently marching from Pyeongtaek train station toward the factory.

In what might indicate the final conflict, the cops are preparing metal containers which they will try to maneuver with cranes and then lower onto the roofs of the factory buildings, with a SWAT team inside. Here's one on the Ssangyong factory grounds waiting to be used:

These containers were used in the attack on a building occupied by protesters against gentrification in the Yongsan section of Seoul on January 20, 2009, resulting in deaths of 5 demonstrators and 1 cop in the ensuing fire (libcom story about it here).

____________________________________________________________


With much fist fighting in the Korean parliament today, a new media law was passed allowing media conglomerates to monopolize the market for media services, like cable internet and TV. Opposition politicians try to block the majority party from gaveling in the new law in the video below:
click here. Be forewarned: this is better than any stagediving I've ever seen at a punk rock show!

Media workers in South Korea continue to strike, with the KCTU calling for a general strike of all their members today and tomorrow (Wednesday and Thursday). But given KCTU's track record, don't expect too much.

MT
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Jul 22 2009 08:28

ehm, translation of the news into Slovak language is under way at the moment and I have seen some 2 updates since the first post today but cannot see any other change than the one with changing picture form the parliament to video. in case you are changing text, please, let me know (PM is fine)

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Steven.
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Jul 22 2009 17:03

Hieronymus, these updates are great. But I was thinking we could get them out to a much wider audience if you posted them as news articles - so would you be able to just click submit content - news and put that stuff in a news article instead of a forum posts? Maybe a maximum of one update per day, and you can edit in any changes during the day?

That way it will go out and be picked up by search engines etc so lots more people will read about it.

If each update is given the tag Ssangyong occupation then all the news articles well end up in an archive here:
http://libcom.org/tags/ssangyong-occupation

I'm going to go through and tag all the articles we have so far

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Hieronymous
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Jul 23 2009 04:31

O.K. I put today's update as a news article with the Ssangyong occupation tag; I'll put all future ones there.

Boris Badenov
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Jul 23 2009 05:49

a Korean newspaper/website that is clearly hostile to the occupation claims that
"Another culprit making the Ssangyong fiasco more complicated is external militant groups."
http://english.donga.com/srv/service.php3?biid=2009072276458
anyone know more about this?

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Jul 23 2009 06:40

The "external militant groups" are the KCTU and its subsidiary the KMWU. At the beginning of the occupation they actually discouraged the workers from being so militant. Loren Goldner's article on the Korean working class describes the KCTU as a "corporatist mouthpiece" for the skilled workers in its unions. It is hated by casualized workers, who make up 60% of the workforce in South Korea (KCTU makes up 10%). Non-striking KCTU workers have physically attacked casualized workers when the latter went on wildcat strikes at the same workplace. The KCTU was an outlawed, illegal organization until 1998; since then it's become a classic bureaucratic business union.

Additionally, the Dong-A Ilbo is one of 3 extreme right-wing daily newspapers (the other 2 are Chosun Ilbo and Jung-Ang Ilbo). They are stridently anti-working class and their accusation of "external militant groups" is the classic accusation that these workers can't be doing this themselves because there must always be some "outside agitators" manipulating them. In the 1980s, those manipulators were always the North Koreans; that would be too absurd today.

Boris Badenov
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Jul 23 2009 14:21

yeah, it did sound pretty suspicious given the clearly hostile tone and the fact that they also claimed that the people with slingshots were really union "terrorists" rather than hired strike-breakers, but I thought that maybe there was a chance that some external (radical) political groups were involved in offering support to the workers.
thanks for all the useful info btw, Hieronymous.

MT
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Jul 23 2009 14:27

Priama akcia (regional group Bratislava) organises a solidarity protest in front of Korean embassy tomorrow. There is also an appeal for broader solidarity actions and a model letter people can use to send e-mails to embassy.
Priama akcia website