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Labor activist symbolically reinstated 37 years after dismissal

National 17:11 February 25, 2022

BUSAN, Feb. 25 (Yonhap) -- Kim Jin-suk, a labor activist well known for her 309-day sit-in protest atop a giant shipyard crane 10 years ago, was symbolically reinstated to her company Friday, 37 years after she was fired due to union activities.

Kim attended the ceremony for her honorary reinstatement and retirement at HJ Shipbuilding & Construction Co., formerly Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Co., in the southeastern port city of Busan.

"The door, which would not open however much I knocked, even until I bled, was flung open today," Kim said during the ceremony.

Kim Jin-suk speaks during a ceremony for her honorary reinstatement and retirement at HJ Shipbuilding & Construction Co. in the southeastern port city of Busan on Feb. 25, 2022. (Yonhap)

Kim Jin-suk speaks during a ceremony for her honorary reinstatement and retirement at HJ Shipbuilding & Construction Co. in the southeastern port city of Busan on Feb. 25, 2022. (Yonhap)

The former welder, who entered the company in 1981, was dismissed due to her union activities in 1986 under the authoritarian Chun Doo-hwan government which harshly suppressed a burgeoning labor movement in the nation.

She was detained three times and tortured for 2 1/2 months by anti-communist police investigators.

"Thirty-seven years have passed since I was dragged away covered with black cloth. Thirty-seven years have passed since the dreadful days when I was abused and dragged around the factory road by tens of, hundreds of, managers and pro-company union officials," she said.

She has staged a legal battle to return to her job for the past 37 years.

In 2011, she staged a sit-in on a 35-meter-high tower crane at the shipyard for 309 days in protest of the company's mass layoffs.

Her struggle led to a deal to rehire fired workers, one of the biggest victories in the history of South Korean labor movement.

Kim Jin-suk (C) and her colleagues raise their hands during a ceremony for her honorary reinstatement and retirement at HJ Shipbuilding & Construction Co. in the southeastern port city of Busan on Feb. 25, 2022. (Yonhap)

Kim Jin-suk (C) and her colleagues raise their hands during a ceremony for her honorary reinstatement and retirement at HJ Shipbuilding & Construction Co. in the southeastern port city of Busan on Feb. 25, 2022. (Yonhap)

The company and labor union recently agreed to grant an honorary reinstatement to Kim, who passed the retirement age of 60 in 2020.

Kim, now a senior official of the Busan branch of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, arrived at the company earlier in the day and looked around places where she used to work.

"I've come all the way here with your support," she said. "I'm ending my 37-year fight today. Thank you for helping me not give up along the way, not collapse over the long time."

Hong Moon-ki, CEO of HJ Shipbuilding & Construction Co., wished her good health and fortune in his address and pledged efforts to forge a cooperative relationship with the labor union.
(END)

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