SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — After a prolonged standoff, South Korean police on Thursday detained a labor union official for his alleged involvement in organizing anti-government protests that turned violent last month.
In a massive show of force, hundreds of uniformed police officers surrounded a Buddhist temple where Korean Confederation of Trade Unions President Han Sang-gyun had been holed up.
Led by a senior monk, Han walked out of the temple where he had been taking refuge for nearly a month. He was flanked by dozens of Buddhist monks and labor union members who created a path for him by linking their hands.
“Let’s destroy the attempts to worsen labor laws through our general strike,” an emotional Han shouted, shortly before he stepped outside the temple’s main gate and was handcuffed by police officers who took him away.
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Police plan to soon request a formal arrest warrant for Han who could face charges including obstruction of justice and illegal assembly for his alleged involvement in nine different anti-government protests this year, including a massive demonstration in November that left dozens of people injured.
Police may also push for a rarely used sedition charge against Han for his involvement in a Nov. 14 protest that turned violent, said an official from the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, who didn’t want to be named, citing office rules.
The KCTU defined Han’s detainment as labor repression and plans to respond by organizing a general strike of its members starting on Dec. 16. KTCU spokesman Park Sung-shik could not immediately confirm how many workers would participate in the general strike.
Thousands of people in recent months took part in anti-government protests against what they see as worsening labor conditions and an attack on personal and political freedoms by conservative President Park Geun-hye.