Protests yesterday erupted outside Yuen Foong Yu (YFY Group) headquarters in Taipei following the recent suicide of South Korean activist Bae Jaey-eong, who led a string of demonstrations in Taipei earlier this year to protest against the company’s decision to cease operations in Icheon, South Korea.
In a show of solidarity with their South Korean counterparts, more than 100 Taiwanese labor union activists and their supporters participated in the rally, pelting the YFY Group building with eggs and splashing red paint over the company’s main logo.
Bae, 44, was the former union leader of Hydis Technologies, which in 2008 was acquired by Taiwan’s E-Ink Holdings (EIH) — a subsidiary of YFY Group. He later became deputy president of the Korean Metal Workers’ Union Gyeonggi Province branch.
Despite prolonged protests in February and March, EIH last month dismissed more than 300 employees as planned, prompting the laid-off workers to continue their protests at the site of the manufacturing facilities.
Before Bae’s death, the management at Hydis threatened to file civil and criminal lawsuits against the workers to demand large compensation, Taiwan Association of Human Rights member Yen Szu-yu (顏思妤) said yesterday.
She said Bae was among 32 workers who temporarily kept their jobs following the mass dismissals and were tasked with maintaining equipment.
The company threatened to sue the workers for allegedly damaging equipment while they were absent on May 1, when Bae led the workers to attend a parade on International Workers’ Day, Yen said.
“He was forced to commit suicide because of legal threats issued by management,” she said.
“His death was the result of malicious accusations and oppression,” she said.
In his will, Bae urged his fellow union activists at Hydis to continue to fight for their cause and apologized for difficulties caused by controversies caused by his decision on May 1.
Carrying a portrait of Bae while throwing “ghost money” in the air, the protesters walked around the YFY Group compound while singing Battle Hymn of Workers, which was originally adapted from The March of the Beloved, a Korean song that featured prominently in South Korea’s democratization movement.
EIH public relations manager Huang Chih-ming (黃志銘) said the company “shares the grief and expresses its regret,” and that it would provide assistance to Bae’s family members for funeral expenses.
He said that EIH would not reverse its decision on the mass dismissals, adding that any plans for legal action against the workers were made by management in South Korea.
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