Guitar Workers + Musicians United!

About Cort Action

Welcome to the international solidarity site of Cort Action, dedicated to supporting the struggle of Cort and Cor-tek guitar manufacturing workers in Korea against their unjust mass firing by Cort Guitars & Basses, a global guitar manufacturer based in South Korea and founded in 1973.

The abandoned Cor-tek factory in Daejon, Korea. Photography by Noh Soon Taek 노순택.

For more than 1300 days, Korean guitar workers and their supporters have protested against their illegal mass firing by Cort/ Cor-tek Guitars.

After dedicating decades of their labor in unventilated rooms full of fumes and solvent, enduring forced overtime and below-minimum wage pay, incurring injuries and lung diseases, and undergoing the abuse of their managers, these workers unionized to finally get minimum wage.

Only a short time later, they found themselves padlocked out of their factory in Deajon  and were forced to sign resignation papers. It turned out that Cort had moved its operations overseas, for much cheaper and non-unionized labor in Chinese and Indonesian factories.

Why does this involve any of us? Cort Guitars does not make the bulk of its profit from its own brand of guitars, but through contracts to produce the budget imports of brand-name guitar companies, including Fender, Gibson, Ibanez,  G&L and Parkwood. In fact, Cort dominates 30% of the global budget guitar market. Thus, the CEO of CORT has become a billionaire, one of the richest men in Korea and the 120th richest man in Korea. With $78 billion dollars in profit over a decade, raises in managerial salaries after the mass firing, and a low debt ratio, the National Labor Relations Commission and Seoul Administrative Court found Park’s claim of financial hardship to justify the mass firing to be false. Their case is now in the Supreme Court of Korea.

Cort Guitars relies on the global market for its profits, beyond Korean borders . That is why the struggle of the Korean workers cannot take place in Korea alone, but must be joined by anyone who believes that music cannot be made under terrible conditions, and that workers everywhere, whether in Korea or anywhere else, deserve to be treated with dignity.

The Korean guitar workers want to return to the factory and work. Making guitars is their identity and their means of livelihood. They have tried everything that they could in Korea to resolve their struggle: they have conducted press conferences, engaged in hunger strikes, held sit-in protests at the two factories, held concerts in solidarity with cultural activists and musicians, used legal means all the way up Korea’s Supreme Court– and still, Cort Guitars has not budged.

FENDER MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS, which met with the Cort workers in January and March of 2010, agreed to investigate the matter. The Cort workers demanded an independent, transparent, and fair investigation. Instead, after a year, Fender has conducted a closed-door , internal investigation and has not made any moves to suspend its business with Cort, instead opening TWO stores in Korea and continuing with business as usual.

Cort/ Cor-tek workers climbed and stayed on a high-wattage electricity tower for 30 days with banners showing their demands, in Seoul, Korea. Photo by Noh Soon Taek 노순택.

On this blog,  you can read and hear the Korean guitar workers’ stories,  see the timeline of their struggle with the company, witness the recent international actions by supporters from around the world, hear from and contribute to the musicians and artists who support the Cort workers, look at the media gallery of actions and events, and contact us or the Cort company and its global business partners to demand justice for the workers. Wherever you are, you can also sign and forward our petition to Cort and Fender.

Most recently, the Cort workers and their solidarity network are joining together for a week of actions at the NAMM Show 2011, from Jan 13 – 15, 2011. There, we will show Cort, Fender, and Ibanez, that guitars are not just for quick and easy profit, and we will meet with Fender again to see if any progress has been made on their investigation.

Guitars are for building community, and that global community wants to see guitar workers get the respect and fair working conditions they deserve, whether they are in Korea, or elsewhere.

Every signature, every posting, every notice about Cort Guitars helps. Guitars without sweatshops, and no music without the workers who make music possible.

You can send emails and questions to cortguitar.action@gmail.com or to other global contacts (see the Contacts page).

Back to blog.

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  1. But isn’t every ompany doing that. I admire your solidarity, but then that should be done to every company… Anyways, it is a vey nice idea.

    • Imagine how much change could be made if each and every one of us chose just one cause to stand up and fight for. I hope you are not as apathetic as your comment, Ersan.

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