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More Rail Strike Chaos Expected

Posted March. 03, 2006 09:10,   


Transportation mayhem continued yesterday, the second day of the Korea Railroad Corporation labor union strike. Some labor union members returned to work yesterday, but the transportation and distribution chaos the strike caused is expected to continue on March 3.

Negotiations between labor and management went on until 5:00 a.m. on Thursday, but ended without an agreement. As a result, subway trains and railway trains were crowded with commuters and students on their first day back from vacation.

The operating rate of Gyeongbu Line and Gyeongin Line trains was down to 51 percent; the Ansan Line was down to 39 percent; and the Bundang Line was down to 48 percent. This gave commuters traveling from Incheon, Suwon, and Uijeongbu to Seoul many difficulties.

A total of 43.5 percent of Korea Train eXpress (KTX) high-speed trains, 56.8 percent of the metropolitan area’s subway trains, and 16.5 percent of railway trains were running at 4:00 p.m. on Thursday. Cement, oil goods, and container deliveries were interrupted because only 15.8 percent of all freight trains were operating.

Local governments put more buses on the roads and allowed more taxis to operate, but this was not enough to meet the demands of citizens who flooded roads, highway bus terminals, and airports to find alternative transportation.

After hearing rumors that government intervention might occur after the talks failed, 13,000 Korea Railroad Corporation union members who were striking in five staging areas nationwide broke up into groups of 10 on Thursday morning to continue their protests.

A total of 2,325 out of 13,140 (17 percent) of rail union members returned to work by 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, meeting the deadline the Korea Railroad Corporation had set for their return.

The Korea Railroad Corporation has warned that they will sue and discharge those who continue to strike.

The prospects of a breakthrough in the labor talks look grim because only three percent of the work force needed to normalize railway operations has returned to work. There is still a slight possibility of an agreement, however, because veteran workers are calling for an end to the strike.

Ki-Jin Lee ditto@donga.com doyoce@donga.com