Yang Kyung-soo, chairman of the Korean Federation of Trade Unions (KCTU), was sentenced to probation in the first trial and released after being arrested on charges of violating quarantine rules and leading a rally in downtown Seoul. The court decided that compliance with quarantine rules due to COVID-19 was more important than freedom of assembly.
On the 25th, Seoul Central District Court’s 9th Criminal Division (Judge Jeong Jong-gun) sentenced Chairman Yang to one year in prison for violating the Assembly and Demonstration Act (Gypsy Act) and violating the Infectious Disease Prevention and Management Act (Infectious Disease Prevention Act). He was sentenced to two years of probation and a fine of 3 million won.
The court explained, “Chairman Yang appears to be the representative of workers’ organizations to publicize the hard life of workers, but he has an obligation to comply with the notice of the local government head to prevent infectious diseases at a time when long-term actions are restricted due to COVID-19.” However, the sentence was taken into account, saying, “After being detained for a considerable period of time, I was given an opportunity to think about efforts to harmonize assembly activities for workers’ rights and interests and compliance with infectious disease laws.” The fact that there were no reports of the spread of COVID-19 was also taken as a sentencing factor.
The two sides’ argument that the provisions of the Infectious Disease Prevention Act were unconstitutional were not accepted. The court said, “It is questionable whether it is possible to prescribe in advance the specific circumstances under which assemblies are prohibited, considering that the necessary measures are different for each region.” Accordingly, he said that he would not propose a judicial review of the constitutionality of the law. He also rejected the lawyer’s claim that the local government notification was illegal.
Immediately after the sentencing, Yang’s father said, “I’m happy to see my son’s face again. As a father, I am proud enough, so I hope you do not lose courage and fight for justice.”
With the sentencing today, Chairman Yang was released from the Seoul Detention Center in Uiwang-si, Gyeonggi-do at 4:30 pm. The KCTU held a welcome ceremony for release in front of the detention center and welcomed Chairman Yang. Chairman Yang said, “It is a time when the role of the government and the KCTU for workers is more important than ever. He criticized, “We need to come up with an alternative to how to deliver workers’ voices during the phased recovery of daily life, but the government is only controlling it unconditionally.”
Whether to appeal will be decided after discussion with the lawyer. Prosecutors demanded a fine of 3 million won and 1 year and 6 months in prison for Yang at the decision trial on the 2nd.