South Korean Street Vendors demand for the District Office of Seoul to stop crackdown and violence towards traders

By Oksana Abboud

StreetNet International represents more than 550 000 street/market vendors and hawkers from 52 affiliated organisations from 48 countries throughout the world. StreetNet is deeply concerned with the current situation in Seoul (South Korea), which occurred, in the past few days on the streets of Seoul.

Korea Democratic Street Vendors Confederation (KDSVC) is one of the national trade union centers of street vendors in South Korea, and is also an ally of the Korean Street Vendors Confederation (KOSC) – an affiliated member organisation of StreetNet International.

The Gangnam police of Seoul repressed street vendors – members of KDSVC. Gangnam police raided KDSVC`s branch office with a seizure and search warrant. Such actions towards the street vendors, many of whom are women, are unacceptable and those which violate human, workers` and trade unions` rights of our brothers and sisters from South Korea.

According to the information at our disposal, Gangnam-gu office in Seoul is continuously using forces for crackdown on 25 street vendors, who are working on Gangnamdaero (street) and most of whom are 50-70 years old, especially since last September. This crackdown is in violation of all ILO Conventions and Recommendations.

KDSVC members are holding rallies and have been going into sit-in struggles for more than 50 days enduring the cold weather conditions. KDSVC demanded dialogue to the office but was denied. The Seoul office says "We don`t have to talk with street vendors because they are illegal".

More than 30 solidarity organisations including KOSC, Korean Street Vendors Confederation, and KCTU, Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, organised emergency planning committee and held press conference on 18th November demanding the Gangnam-gu office to stop the crackdown and violence.

StreetNet International expressed its concern and through its Asian Organiser Oksana Abboud has forwarded a protest letter to the name of Ms. Yeon-Hee Shin, Mayor of Gangnam-gu office. StreetNet requests the Mayor to adopt a more inclusive way of dealing with street vendors in Seoul through negotiations with KDSVC and KOSC representatives.