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Korea’s Beleaguered Trade Union Group

Posted January. 05, 2007 07:18,   


The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) started 2007 with strong criticism from the general public. Even though last December, the KCTU held a meeting entitled ‘an emergency meeting to innovate the beleaguered KCTU’ in an attempt to turn public sentiment around, citizens, lawmakers and the government turned their back on it, branding it as a group that leads illegal and violent demonstrations.

The KCTU is losing members every year. The trade union of Hyundai Motors made a scene at the opening ceremony for the year, prompting Koreans to give the cold shoulder to the KCTU. On January 4, a restaurant owner named Kim Hong-shik posted writing on the web site of the KCTU, criticizing it by saying, “Even though the Hyundai car union raised a disturbance and says it would refuse to work, the KCTU doesn’t seem to care much.”

KCTU members keep quitting their membership. Last year, the labor unions of Daelim Industrial Company and Kolon gave up their membership. KCTU membership peaked in 2002 with 685,147 workers.

Infighting is serious in the Militant Umbrella Union, which has two factions in it. One is called NL (national liberation) and the other is PD (public democracy). The two are increasingly at loggerheads with each other. In the run-up to the election for union boss scheduled this month, the warring factions are insinuating that they would not recognize a new boss if he is from the other side.

Money from the government dries up-

The government and municipalities used to give the KCTU 2 billion won until 2005 so that it could pay its rent for its office. However, they decided not to give after the National Assembly objected last year.

The ministry of labor has decided not to give the KCTU government money unless it submits a sound and transparent education plan for its members.

On December 22 of last year, the municipal government for North Gyeongsang Province stopped its 200-million-won fund it used to give to the KCTU branch in the province, saying that the municipal government can’t give taxpayer’s money to an entity that caused harm to citizens by way of illegal and violent demonstrations.

No KCTU membership for the Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union (KTEU) and Korean Government Employees’ Union (KGEU)-

A Grand National Party lawmaker Lee Sang-bae, who works for administrative committee, said on January 3 that he would submit an amendment to bar the KTEU and KGEU from getting KCTU membership.

If the amendment passes the National Assembly, the two unions will have to forfeit their KCTU membership. If they lose their membership, the KCTU stands to suffer a blow, given the two accounts for a 30% of KCTU membership.

KCTU spokeswoman Woo Moon-sook criticized the government and the Grand National Party, saying, “They are bent on bashing the KCTU.”

Belatedly, it has been revealed that in its budget appropriation for 2007 that the National Assembly asked the government not to give money to civic groups that engaged in illegal demonstrations.

According to a 2007 National Assembly budget review issued on January 4, the appropriations committee for the first time accepted a majority opinion that any civic group that took part in illegal demonstrations cannot receive government money.

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