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40,000 KCTU Unionists Stage Limited Time Strike

Posted November. 12, 2003 22:59,   


The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) staged a one-day general strike Wednesday to urge the government to take measures against indemnity suits and provisional seizures of unionists` assets, and to protect the rights of irregular workers.

The union members of the KCTU also took to the streets in 19 cities to protest the government’s labor policy. For instance, some 5,000 workers (according to the police`s estimation) gathered at 2 p.m. in front of the National Assembly building, Yoido, Seoul.

The gatherings were carried out relatively peacefully, possibly in consideration of the public criticism over Sunday`s violent demonstration in downtown Seoul. Some unionists who participated in the rally in Yoido, however, escalated tension as they insisted on moving, despite the police`s restraint, to the hospital where a body of an irregular worker who recently burned himself to death laid in order to hold a memorial service.

44,000 (The Labor Ministry‘s estimation) unionists at 77 workplaces under the KCTU walked out of their workplaces to demand the government to stop employers from abusing their right to file compensation suits against unionists and to abolish policies that discriminate against casual workers.

The railway unions such as the Korean Railway Workers Union, the Seoul Metropolitan Railway Workers` Union and the Incheon Railway Workers` Union did not walk out of their workplaces, but instead strictly followed the regulations such as observing the stop time and railroad car inspection at each station from 4 p.m. until 8p.m.

This caused a great inconvenience to returning commuters as Seoul subway trains of Line 5 to 8 and Incheon subway trains of Line 1 stopped for 30 seconds at each station.

In addition, some of unionists of the Korean Teachers and Educational Workers` Union also joined the strike by leaving early and skipping afternoon classes and rescheduling them in the morning.

"Sunday`s violent rally signifies the eruption of workers` anger against the incumbent government`s pro-conglomerate policies. The government has been oppressing laborers and arresting a large number of laborers while neglecting to come up with measures," the KCTU explained the background of the strike.

The strike, however, was not as intense as anticipated because the unions of the Ssangyong Motor, Mando and other workplaces which participated in the last Thursday`s strike did not join Wednesday`s strike, and most of unionized workers staged the strike for four hours.

Having the National Union of Metalworkers as the pivot, the KCTU plans to stage further strikes every Wednesday, following this Wednesday`s strike.

After the gathering in Yoido, the 5,000 workers occupied two lanes of the road and marched from 4:30 p.m. until they reached the Korea Labor Welfare Corporation(KLWC) in Yeongdeungpo. However, illegal demonstration tools such as firebombs and metal pipes were not seen.

The participants marched 2.1km toward the KLWC, while holding candles until the sunset and then moved to the Seoul Jeongang Hospital in Yeongdeungpo. In the hospital, the body of Lee Yong-suk, (36 year old) who killed himself during the demonstration on October 26, lies.

Although the officials of the KCTU argued, "We do not need to inform such things to the police since we do occupy the road," the police tried to stop them, saying, "The march toward the hospital was not informed to us."

The police mobilized 8,000 police officers of 44 companies for the demonstration in Seoul. The total number of 30,000 was mobilized for demonstrations all across the nation.