S. Korean intelligence agency searches unions for possible ties to North Korea
The biggest labor union in South Korea was searched by the country's spy agency, which claimed the operation was a part of a probe to see if any members had ties to North Korea.
The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) office in central Seoul was searched by the National Intelligence Service and the police on Wednesday.
The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions and a subsidiary union in Seoul were raided by the National Intelligence Service and the police.
According to the spy agency, some of its personnel may have had "links with North Korea." In the southwest of the city, the offices of the Korean Health and Medical Workers' Union, which is linked with the KCTU, were also searched.
According to a representative of the intelligence agency, "We and the national police agency have been carrying out our own investigation into the suspects' alleged contacts with North Korea for several years."
After the court granted a search and seizure warrant, the source said, "we moved forward with the raid because we believed that a compulsory investigation was essential based on the evidence collected in the process."
North Korea and South Korea are still technically at war, and ownership of publications or other items created in the North is a crime under the contentious and antiquated National Security Act. According to local media, the raids were carried out in response to allegedly violated security legislation.
The KCTU referred to the raid as "barbaric" and charged Seoul's conservative administration with "conniving" to attack the labor union.
The KCTU, one of the biggest union umbrella organizations in South Korea, was connected to a recent strike by truck drivers whose union is a part of the KCTU.
Last month, President Yoon Suk-yeol ordered striking drivers in the steel and gasoline industries to return to work and threatened them with jail time or penalties if they didn't.
According to South Korea's Yonhap News Agency, union representatives physically stopped law enforcement from entering the KCTU headquarters and demanded that the search and any property seizures take place in the presence of a lawyer. The police and union representatives reportedly got into a fight during the altercation, according to Yonhap.
The majority of North Korean content, including its official Rodong Sinmun newspaper, is beyond limits to people under the 1948 National Security Act. The rule has drawn heavy criticism, including from the United Nations, which calls it a "very worrisome" threat to South Korea's right to free speech.
The military regimes that dominated South Korea for many years up until the early 1990s imprisoned thousands of people, including union activists, in accordance with the law. The act was frequently used to accuse persons of supporting Pyongyang or working as North Korean spies.
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