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    Posted December 23, 2013 by
    Seoul, South Korea

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    [KCTU disputes legality of police raid]

    By Nam Hyun-woo

    The police raid on a union umbrella group to apprehend leaders of a railroad workers’ strike Sunday is causing controversy not just because it was a botched attempt but also because some believe it was illegal.

    On Sunday morning, riot police officers forced their way into the Kyunghyang Daily building in central Seoul, which houses the main office of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU).

    Police believed the leaders, including Kim Myong-hwan, the Korea Railroad Corp. (KORAIL) union head, were holed up in the building.

    Police booked 136 unionized workers for obstructing the execution of official business. But they failed to round up any union leaders as they fled before the raid, even though police mobilized a total of 5,000 officers.

    They raided the daily’s building without a search warrant. Before the raid, police had sought a search warrant but were rejected by the Seoul Western District Court. Their raid was based on arrest warrants for Kim and other leaders.

    The Lawyers for a Democratic Society issued a statement Monday saying that such a police raid without a search warrant is, “an abuse by the police force.”

    “The police raid on the Kyunghyang Daily building without a search warrant is an apparent crime. We will file a complaint against the police for their criminal act to hold them accountable,” it said at a press conference.

    The KCTU said the police “illegally messed up” their office with only arrest warrants. It is the first time that its office -- long considered a “safe haven” for labor unions for almost two decades -- has been raided since it gained legal status in 1999.

    “Police had requested a search warrant, but a Seoul court dismissed it,” it said. “With only arrest warrants, they had no legal grounds to break into the KCTU office, but they violently carried on the operation. We will ask police and President Park Geun-hye to take responsibility for this illegal labor-suppressing.”

    The KCTU alleged that police had already been tipped off that the leaders were not in the building, but they carried out the operation anyway because of “high-level” orders. The KCTU also said it will launch a massive strike on Dec. 28 in a protest of the Park administration.

    Police flatly denied allegations that the raid was illegal.

    National Police Agency Chief Lee Sung-han said Monday, “Asking police to take responsibility is unfair. The entry was a legitimate enforcement of law made with strong evidence that the leaders were in the building, and I don’t think the operation was a failure.”

    The police chief said, “Police had requested search warrants before the operation, but it seems that the court dismissed it because the court didn’t consider search warrants necessary.”

    He explained that police raided the office because they could not ignore wanted criminals staying at a certain place and masterminding an illegal strike.

    “I made all the decisions regarding the operation and I’m the one who should take responsibility,” Lee said.

    Lee denied the KCTU’s allegation that Cheong Wa Dae ordered the operation.
    “Police reported to Cheong Wa Dae before launching the operation, which is a usual protocol,” he said. “But we did not make any prior consultations with other agencies before kicking off the operation.”

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