Retreat from Reform

Labor Rights and Freedom of Expression in South Korea

Despite the South Korean government’s June 1987 promise of reforms, there is a wide disparity between the rhetoric of democracy achieved and the reality of the retreat from reform. The government of President Roh Tae-Woo has failed to deliver on promises of reform in two key areas: worker rights and freedom of expression.
It continues to violate the workers’ right to elect their own leaders and take collective actions; riot police are frequently used to break up strikes and workers’ rallies. The government regularly employs the National Security Law to arrest its critics and advocates of unification with North Korea; publishing houses are raided and "objectionable” materials confiscated; writers, publishers and editors are rounded up; and military and civilian security agencies engage in domestic surveillance.