Seoul Court Orders Samsung to Pay for Union Suppression Efforts

SEOUL — In a landmark ruling, the Seoul Central District Court on Friday mandated Samsung Electronics Co. and its affiliates, along with several executives, to pay 130 million won (approximately US$97,509) in damages for their attempts to dismantle a labor union. This decision comes as a significant development in a legal battle initiated by the Korean Metal Workers' Union in 2020, which accused the conglomerate of engaging in activities aimed at suppressing unionization efforts within its subsidiary.

According to Yonhap News Agency, the court found multiple officials from Samsung guilty of spearheading a project to nullify a labor union established in 2013 at Samsung Electronics Service, the after-service department of Samsung Electronics. This initiative, referred to as the "greening" project, was part of a broader strategy to undermine labor organizing within the company. The union, which serves as the parent organization for the Samsung service union, had sought damages from Samsung Electronics, various current and former officials of the Samsung Group, the Korea Enterprises Federation, and other entities for their involvement in these anti-labor activities.

The Seoul Central District Court held the defendants accountable, ordering Samsung Electronics and Samsung Electronics Service, alongside the business lobby group and 21 other current and former executives, to collectively compensate 100 million won. Additionally, 14 other Samsung affiliates and their executives were directed to pay a separate sum of 30 million won in damages.

The ruling, however, did not meet the Korean Metal Workers' Union's expectations, who had originally demanded 300 million won in compensation. Expressing dissatisfaction with the court's decision, the union criticized the ruling for being overly lenient towards the defendants' efforts to disrupt labor union activities. "It's regrettable that the court still tends to be lenient about the crime of breaking up labor unions," stated the union in response to the judgment.

This case underscores the ongoing challenges faced by labor unions in South Korea, particularly in confronting large conglomerates accused of employing tactics to stifle unionization and labor rights.

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