SOUTH KOREA: Injuries of 42 workers by private security in absence of police action 


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-160-2012
ISSUES: Freedom of expression, Torture,

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from the Dasan Human Rights Center, South Korea that thugs acting as private security contractors hired by a company had seriously beaten the trade union members while the police did nothing to prevent it. While the extreme violence was ongoing, the police stationed at the gate of the company and the officers at the nearby station were informed several times through emergency calls. However, no action was taken and this resulted in severe injuries to 42 workers.


According to the information received, union members of the SJM’s Ansan car parts plant voted for a strike and union leaders entered into a partial strike for four hours a day starting from July 12, 2012.

On July 25, the company, SJM, made a contract with a private security company and at 11pm, the security company informed the Ansan Danwon police station that it would deploy its security guards to the workplace at 6 am on July 27.

At 5pm on July 26, SJM informed the labour office that it would impose a lock-out of the Ansan workplace starting from 7am on July 27.

On July 27, three people from the company’s management and at about 300 security guards arrived at 4:25 am and started their operation around 5 am at both the main and back gates of the company. With heavily equipped security guards they entered into the plant and used extreme violence against the striking workers by throwing machine parts and spraying them with fire extinguishers. It took two hours for the security guards to evacuate striking workers from the workplace during which 42 of the workers (list of injured workers) were injured.

According to police records, the police received emergency calls three times (4:55 am, 5:01 am and 5:05 am) until they sent a police patrol car to the scene. However, the police failed to take appropriate action to intervene and prevent the violence. In addition, the police station received three more calls (5:23 am, 5:27 am and 5:27 am) informing that the police stationed at the gate of the company did not take any action while the security guards used extreme violence against the striking workers.

At 5:30 am, the head of the Ansan Danwon police station together with three companies of auxiliary police went to the scene. However, they took no action despite witnessing several workers running out of the company in obviously poor and injured condition. When being questioned, the officer in charge said, “We can intervene on request of the company. We only maintain our force”. They then left the scene.

When the violence perpetrated by the security guards towards the striking workers and the inappropriate action by the police became known to the public serious criticism arose. As a result the police started an investigation into the SJM Company and the security service company. In addition, the head of the Ansan Danwon police station was suspended on August 3.

Currently, the police investigation is ongoing.


The AHRC notes with concern this trend of privatisation of force and the acquiescence or aiding and abetting of the police. In fact, this is not the first case but has continued in various places of society notably, labour disputes or designated area of redevelopment as the AHRC has so far documented.

In 2008, a case regarding the union members’ freedom and labour rights at Kiryung Electronic Co. LTD (AHRC-UAC-237-2008), the AHRC reported how the police did not intervene while violent acts against the union by the private security contractors were ongoing. In 2009, the case regarding a death of a tenant during a land redevelopment dispute (AHRC-STM-253-2009) and explains how violent acts against residents, who were reluctant to move out, led to a tragic suicide of a tenant. In the case of SSangyong motor company in 2009, the police operated together with the private security contractors in order to forcibly disperse the workers on strike (AHRC-STM-158-2009).

The duty of the police is very clear in the law. According to article 3 of Police Act, the police authorities have a duty to safeguard physical integrity of nationals as well as to maintain public peace and order. Article 4 of the Act also states that law enforcement officers have to be impartial and fair while performing their duties. However, the authorities have shown a tendency not to be directly involved in a collision, between private security workers and civilians, where adequate protections are essential for the safety of people involved. Even worse, as shown above, with the due tolerance of the law enforcement agencies, the private security contractors have been using unauthorized private force without being controlled.

Private security contractors are currently regulated under Security Service Industry Act. According to the Act, the security service providers’ exercise of power is limited to preventing dangerous situations from occurring (Article 2.1). Privately hired security contractors also prohibited from exercising excessive physical force beyond their role (Article 15.2). The acts also set out that perpetrators who violate these provisions would only be imposed fine.

It is reported that the reason why the security service industries in South Korea have increased is that the financial benefit is much more than the sanction in receiving financial penalty. It is easy to change or register again even when its license is revoked due to the violation. In addition, the private security contractors do normally receive lenient punishment such as suspension of sentence or little fine.

Please send a letter to the authorities listed below expressing your concern about this case and requesting thorough investigation of this case. Please note that the AHRC has also written separate letters to the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and on the use of mercenaries.

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Dear ___________,

SOUTH KOREA: Injuries of 42 workers by private security in absence of police action

Details of the injured: 42 workers from Ansan SJM plant
Officials involved: Head of Ansan Danwon police station
Date of Incident: July 27, 2012

I am very concerned about the case regarding the safety and rights of the workers who were severely injured by privately hired security contractors at the Ansan SJM plant on 27 July 2012.

According to the information received, extreme violence against the union members was carried out while the union was taking a legitimate collective action on the plant premise. The SJM union members were on a sit-in strike against the previous locking-out decision made by the management.

At 5am, around 300 security guards privately hired by the company entered into the premise in order to oust the union members from the plant. They were highly equipped with armours, shields, batons and fire extinguishers which later used as weapons to assault the workers. During the crackdown, fire extinguishers were discharged and the empty bottles were thrown at the workers as well as metal car parts lying around in the plant.

It was confirmed by the union that 42 workers were injured in total and 5 people were seriously injured as a result of extreme violence. Injured workers have now been hospitalised and some of the workers' injuries would take up to 12 weeks to recover.

I am disturbed by the inaction of the police despite the fact that they were informed of the extreme violence through continued emergency calls. Media also verified that the union had asked for protection prior to the crackdown. Nevertheless, a number of police was stationed around the plant while extreme violence was being carried out. While the head of the police station was appealed, he said that the police force could only intervene on the request by the company. No action was taken.

It is reported that this sort of extreme violence is rampant notably in the place of labour disputes, redevelopment area or construction. A company makes a contract with security service providers and let them do the dirty job in the guardian of the police. I am informed that this is one of other such cases where the workers were beaten by security providers notably, in the case of Kiryung Electronic Co. LTD in 2008, SSangyong motor company in 2009.

I therefore urge you to thoroughly investigate in this case so that those who are relevant to the violence as well as the police who did not take any action are punished according to the law. More importantly, it should be studied how the violence of private security provider was made and operated so that such vicious cycle of violence is no longer used by a particular group of people.

I further note with concern that the security providers having a contract with a company in order to violate the freedom of association of the workers and the violence is encouraged to use at the acquiescence or abetting of the police. Without this cycle is cut, this sort of violence will continue and the very existence of the police is not for the protection for the people but those who have and are in power.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

1. Mr. Lee Myung-Bak 
1 Sejong-no, Jongno-gu 
Seoul, 110-820 
Fax: +82 2 770 4751 
E-mail: or or

2. Mr. Kwon Jea-Jin
Minister of Justice 
88 Gwanmon-ro, Gwachon-si 
Gyonggi Province 427-760 
Tel: +82 2 503 7023 
Fax: +82 2 2110 3079 / 503 7046 

3. Mr. Han Sang-Dea
Prosecutor General 
Supreme Prosecutor's Office 
1730-1, Seocho3-dong 
Seocho-gu, Seoul 
Fax: +82 2 3480 2555 
Tel: +82 2 3480 2000 

4. Mr. Maeng Hyeong-Gyu
Ministry of Public Administration and Security
77-6 Sejongno Jongno-gu, Seoul
Tel: +82 2 2100 3399

5. Mr. Kim Ki-Yong
Commissioner General 
Korean National Police Agency 
Uiju-ro 91(Migeun-dong 209) Seodaemun-gu 
Seoul 120-704 

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme 
Asian Human Rights Commission (

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : AHRC-UAC-160-2012
Countries : South Korea,
Issues : Freedom of expression, Torture,