Right to free speech and assembly
In South Korea, the police banned a demonstration of 499 participants by the Korean Public Service and Transport Workers’ Union just two days after it announced a policy to allow smaller demonstrations near the Office of the President. Conflict between the new government and labour was steadily mounting following its hardline response to the Cargo Truckers solidarity strike.
The union called the strike, which began on 7 June 2022, to demand that the government extend a freight rate system guaranteeing basic wages for truck drivers to cope with surging fuel costs (known as ‘safe rates’).
In addition to banning the demonstration, the authorities also took a hard line on picketing. By 10 June, a total of 30 striking truckers had been taken into police custody for allegedly obstructing business.
The strike was suspended on 14 June, when Korean Public Service and Transport Workers’ Union Cargo Truckers’ Solidarity Division (KPTU-TruckSol) reached an agreement with the South Korean Ministry of Land Infrastructure and Transport on the continuation of the safe rates system. The Ministry promised to “continue to propel forward the safe rates system and discuss expansion to other freight types”.
However, the dispute further escalated later in the year as the government invoked emergency laws, issuing ‘return to work’ orders against individual drivers to break another truck drivers’ strike in December.