The past 100 days have been a breathless time for Yang Hoeseon, the older brother of the 3rd division head of the Gangwon branch of the Yanghoe-dong construction union. He didn’t even have time to look back. On June 21, it was only after his brother’s labor civil society chapter was strictly followed that he realized that his brother had left. Every time he was alone, he felt regret, saying, “I don’t think I have done anything for you as an older brother.” He relied on religion and comforted himself, saying that restoring his brother’s honor would be a long battle. 100 days passed like that.
On the 9th, the 100th day since Yang’s self-immolation, I met Hoeson at a church in Dongducheon, Gyeonggi Province. Mr. Hoe-seon said, “It has been more than three months since his brother left, but he still cannot stop feeling sad when he thinks of the time he spent with his brother. He thinks he needs to be calm, but his emotions seem to be inescapable.”
Yang Ji-jang was born in Sokcho, Gangwon-do as the youngest of seven siblings. Less than 100 days after his birth, his father died of stomach cancer. Jijang Yang’s mother traveled from one market to another in search of work. Her children often cooked rice with the rice her mother had received in exchange for her daily allowance. Hoeseon and Yang, who are 10 years apart, said they pondered over the ‘role of her father’ while watching their mother suffer.
After graduating from an agricultural high school, Yang worked at a computer repair shop. He met and married his wife in 2002, and within seven years they had two twin children. It is said that Yang Ji-jang usually referred to his children as ‘my alter egos’. Mr. Hoe-seon said, “My sister’s children were often sick when they were young, and that made them even more affectionate.”
In 2012, the first crisis came to the family. Cheorwon’s LPG supply business, which had been running for about five years, was on the brink of bankruptcy. I got into debt for the first time, and the symptoms of diabetes, which I used to suffer from, got worse. Mr. Hoeseon, who was watching Yang’s hardships, called the Yang’s family and stayed with them at their house in Dongducheon, Gyeonggi Province for about two years and six months. Yang worked at a facility company run by Mr. Hoe Seon.
Mr. Hoe-seon said he wanted to stay with his brother. However, Yang’s thoughts were different. He said he wanted to go out into society and achieve ‘something’. Mr. Hoe-seon said, “I asked his younger brother to stay with me in the future, but there was no reaction.” Captain Yang left for Sokcho, leaving behind the words, “I will try to live well on my own.”
Yang started working as a rebar worker in Sokcho in 2015. Since he had good dexterity from a young age, his ability was recognized, such as serving as the class president in the field. He was also resourceful, winning subcontracts while acting as a business owner.
However, structural problems at the construction site got in the way. In 2018, while working in Pyeongchang, Gangwon Province, I experienced an illegal subcontracting problem. The prime minister said that he had paid the construction cost to Yang, but the person who received the money cut off contact. His own salary as well as the wages of the workers he worked with were in a position to fail. Mr. Hoe-seon said, “At the time, his younger brother told the people he worked with, ‘Accuse me. Then, you can get overdue salaries,” he said, trying to solve the problem.
In 2019, Yang joined the construction union of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions. It was to find a stable job without getting hit by the so-called ‘Oyaji’ who exploited the middleman. Mr. Hoe-seon said, “After joining the union, my face looked comfortable. When I saw him during the holidays, I used to tell my younger brother, ‘It’s best to be comfortable even if you earn a little less money.’”
Union activities fit well with Yang’s personality. When it became difficult to eat at construction sites due to distance during the Corona 19 epidemic, the situation was improved by informing the media. Mr. Hoeseon said, “My younger brother was usually quiet and was not good at saying bad things to others, but he was also a person who couldn’t stand the social absurdity.” In January 2022, Yang took over as head of the 3rd division of the Gangwon branch of the construction union. Over the next year, the number of union members he belonged to increased to nearly 100.
In December of last year, when the government began to accuse the construction union of being ‘gunpowder’, the atmosphere at the site changed. Even after negotiating on the spot, there are many cases where people are turned away from door to door. Still, it is said that Yang Ji-jang did not express anything other than to say ‘It’s okay’ to his family.
The last phone call between Hoeseon and Yang was on April 29, two days before the self-immolation. A police investigation into Yang’s먹튀검증 division commander was underway. Lieutenant Yang said to Mr. Hoeseon, “Brother, I feel a little more at ease now.” Mr. Hoeseon understood that to mean ‘I’m fine now’. He said that he did not know that the police had applied for an arrest warrant for his brother for extorting 80 million won until then. Hoesun said, “I feel sick to my stomach thinking that there are many things I don’t know about my younger brother. The only thing left is regret, wondering why I didn’t look at my younger brother’s situation with a little more
Despite Yang’s self-immolation, the government was unmoved. The Chosun Ilbo raised suspicion of aiding and abetting a union official who was with Yang at the time of the self-immolation. Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport Won Hee-ryong matched the rhythm by sharing the article on social network service ( SNS ).
Mr. Hoe-seon said he felt anger and fear at the attitude of the government and the media. He said, “I didn’t think they were the people to apologize for the death of the worker in the first place, but I thought it was too much even if I did.” Regarding the police’s investigation into the ‘aiding and abetting report’ case, “Eighty days have passed since the complaint, but the police have yet to properly uncover anything. It cannot be called a normal situation,” he said. “The police may think that the case will be covered over time, but the truth will surely come out someday.”
He couldn’t just be sick inside. Mr. Hoe Seon put down his job at a facility company for a while. He found a book on labor history and started reading it. It is said that the sons who graduated from college said, “We will give you the allowance, so father, focus on what you want to do.” Mr. Hoeseon said, “Some people want the bereaved family to collapse quickly, so that the case of the younger brother will be quiet, but that is not possible.”
He said, “I know that there are people who agree with the government’s argument and think that ‘construction workers steal money and threaten’. I am contemplating how to persuade such people,” he said.