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The Korea Herald
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THE INVESTOR
April 15, 2024

Industrials

Coupang's alleged 'blacklist' sparks legal clash

  • PUBLISHED :February 16, 2024 - 09:33
  • UPDATED :February 16, 2024 - 09:33
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Lawyer Kwon Young-guk speaks while showing the alleged "Coupang blacklist" on the screen during a press conference on Wednesday. (Yonhap)

Coupang Fulfillment Service, a subsidiary of e-commerce giant Coupang, announced on Thursday that it is has taken legal action against a lawyer who has claimed that the company blacklisted over 16,000 former and current employees, as well as individuals associated with Coupang, purportedly to prevent their reemployment or subject them to close monitoring in other situations.

CFS filed a complaint with police in Songpa-gu, Seoul, against Kwon Young-guk, a lawyer and former head of legal advisory at the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, along with three other relevant parties, for what it says is spreading false claims and engaging in defamation.

The controversy was first ignited Tuesday when a local broadcaster reported on Coupang's compilation of a list supposedly containing information on some 16,450 individuals, purportedly aimed at restricting employment opportunities.

According to the report, Coupang's data comprises details of individuals' previous work record alongside reasons for reluctance to hire, including "inability to fulfill tasks," "health issues," "workplace harassment" and "repeated unauthorized absences." If verified, this list would violate the Labor Standards Act, which could result in imprisonment for up to five years or a fine of up to 50 million won ($42,000).

On Wednesday, Kwon convened a press conference at the Lawyers for a Democratic Society's office in Seoul, announcing plans for legal action on the matter upon presenting to attendees the list that he claimed to be from Coupang.

Kwon said that numerous executives who were union members or involved in union activities had found themselves on the blacklist, resulting in their permanent exclusion from employment or temporary bans lasting 24 weeks.

"The blacklist provides no explanation beyond the intention to recruit and manage individuals who adhere strictly to Coupang's orders and management," the lawyer added.

Coupang rebuts the assertions made by Kwon, arguing he fabricated nonexistent categories from the original document to suggest that it had devised a blacklist using covert symbols. "Categories such as 'union titles' or 'logistics center names' do not exist in our CFS personnel evaluation records," Coupang stated in a release.

The company refuted the accusation of hindering employment and expressed its determination to hold Kwon accountable for disseminating manipulated data for political motives and souring public opinion. "Personnel evaluation of employees falls within the company's purview and is an inherent responsibility for ensuring a secure workplace environment," Coupang’s statement read.

Coupang also intends to pursue legal action against the media outlet that initially disseminated the report, including filing a complaint with the Korea Communications Standards Commission.

Meanwhile, the broadcaster additionally relayed Wednesday that Coupang also included in the blacklist approximately 100 reporters, TV producers and writers who had reported negatively on the firm.

By Kim Hae-yeon (hykim@heraldcorp.com)

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