We ask for your solidarity and creative actions.
This is about the people who made one third of the guitars being circulated worldwide but didn’t own any. Do the names Fender, Ibanez, G&L, or Parkwood sound familiar to you?
Their factory was unventilated and had no windows in the name of ‘high productivity.’ They worked without a break, like hens in cages, and eventually became ill and injured. Some workers lost their fingers in the sawing machines, others suffered from chronic muscle and bone related diseases caused by the sanding and grinding process with only a facemask against the dust. Most of them contracted bronchitis or asthma caused by working in the unventilated paint rooms full of solvents. They worked overtime without being paid for all those hours, arriving early and leaving late, some even collapsing at the factory and then asked to sign resignation papers by their boss while they lay in their hospital beds.
Nevertheless, these Korean workers were happy whenever they saw the gleaming guitars inlaid with mother of pearl, produced by their own hands and exported to countries around the world. They worked hard, day and night, for ten to twenty years with pride. Finally, after establishing their labor union in 2006, they raised their wage to the highest level in 12 years, but the raise only brought them near the minimum wage of Korea.
Meanwhile, Park Young Ho, the CEO of Cor-tek, has built up a fortune of $78Million dollars during this period, at the expense of the workers’ labor. (Click “read more” below to get the rest of the post)
As of now, he ranks 125th among the richest men in the world. After establishing his new factory in China in 1997, he gradually reduced the production lines in Korea and shifted them abroad. That was the planned scheme, which he did not disclose to his workers. Furthermore, on April 2007, he laid off 56 factory workers in Incheon, Korea, secretly closed the business of the Daejeon, Korea, factory and laid off the remaining 67 workers three months later. In protest against the company’s secretive and illegal restructuring policy, Lee Dong Ho, one of the workers, protested by burning himself on December 2007. But Park didn’t care about the life of his worker, and also closed the business of Incheon factory on August 2008, claiming a sham bankruptcy. With nowhere else to go, the illegally fired workers have protested by protecting and occupying the closed factory since then.
Last year, they protested with hunger strike on the high electricity tower at Seoul’s riverside for a month. They tried to squat in the head office of Cort but all were arrested by specially trained police officers soon after. Perhaps guitars with the brand name of Fender, Ibanez, Cort, or Parkwood were playing a song of love somewhere around the world at the moment when the workers were being dragged to the police office like dogs.
Now, maybe the melody can sound like, “Let’s join hands in solidarity,” and “We have to stand together.” The workers are terribly afraid of this current period of negligence and severe hardship. They fear the indifference and estrangement from the people who should care the most.
Fortunately, many Koreans artists, musicians, and those who belonged to art and cultural organizations have supported the workers’ cause, putting on public concerts, photo exhibits, and making documentaries. In the spring, German labor activists, artists and musicians did likewise at Musikmesse 2009, a global music instrument convention. Just this past November, a broad coalition of musicians, labor activists, media activists and ordinary citizens in Japan also supported the workers in Tokyo and Yokohama, at the Yokohama Music Fair.
We appeal to you to act creatively to publicize the injustice of the Cort Guitar company. NEXT STOP: USA (Los Angeles and Anaheim, California): January 8- 17, 2010. Stay tuned on this blog for more information.
Hear and read the workers’ stories directly at this link.