South Korean court awards damages to woman pressured to drink at office functions
A woman has won a lawsuit against her boss for being pressured to drink alcohol at company dinners. The ruling in her favour is seen as a strike against South Korea’s corporate culture, where such binge-drinking outings are often a typical end to a working day.
The 29-year-old woman, whose identity was not released, claimed in the lawsuit that her former boss pressured her to stay at drinking parties after work at least twice a week, usually going as late as 3 a.m.
The boss, 38, identified only by his family name Choi, once threatened to have one of the woman’s male co-workers kiss her unless she drank, and she also was pressured to drink when suffering from stomach problems, according to the suit.
The woman claimed in the suit that she felt she had to drink due to the “coercive atmosphere” and out of concern her career would suffer.
The Seoul High Court ruled last week that Choi pay her 30 million (US$32,500) in damages, a heavier verdict than a lower court ruling that awarded her 7 million won (US$7,580), Judge Kang Young-ho said.
7 May 2007
‘We will defend our democratic union with our own hands!’- KGEU Rally with 2,000 members
The June struggle of KGEU which had started with union leaders’ hunger strike from 29 May marked its culmination in the rally on 23 June, in which more than 2,000 members participated. More than 400 grassroots leaders joined the action tour, during which about 20 meetings and local actions with rank and file members were organized per day. As usual, the Korean government tried to block the rally by various strict measures.
The main demands at the rally were guarantee of government employees’ basic labour rights, reinstatement of the dismissed, no to worsening of government employees’ pension, no to forceful retrenchment of government employees, and no to corporatization of national universities.
At the rally, president Kwon Seung Bok claimed during his speech that ‘the argument that the KGEU has shrunken due to government repression is totally not true’ and that ‘instead, we are witnessing today that we are alive and the union is reviving.’ And he underlined that ‘we will strongly respond to any actions that serve the interests of the government and capital and we will defend our democratic union.’ Despite having continued his hunger strike for 26 days, he was able to make a speech before the union members at the rally. However, he fainted and was hospitalized for a few days shortly after the rally.
At the rally, KCTU first vice president, Sister JIN Young Ok, stated during her speech that ‘we have gathered here to defend a democratic union’ and that ‘although the government and capital are trying to split up the KGEU through its divide-and-rule policy, the KCTU will support and defend the KGEU to the end.’ Bro. DAN Byung Ho, a member of parliament from KDLP and former president of KCTU, strongly criticized those who left the KGEU, stating during his speech that ‘when a ship sinks, what jumps the ship first are rats.’
Unfortunately, 23 June also saw the establishment of another union of government employees, from a section of KGEU that had disaffiliated itself, namely, the so-called Korean Democracy Government Employees’ Union. This ‘union’ had insisted that KGEU should get registered right away in order to avoid government repression and to keep the union in unity, and had assembled into an ‘emergency committee of KGEU’ when the KGEU held a national congress on 19 May. The union’s committee denied the legitimacy of the current leadership of the KGEU, claiming that the current leadership had ignored the prevailing views of rank and file members of the union who wanted the union to get registered right away.
Korean Government Employees’Union, 20 July 2007