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Events Mark Labor Day in Festive Mood

Posted May. 02, 2008 03:06,   


Labor Day, which had long been checkered by violence and illegal demonstrations, has turned into a festival day this year.

Commemorating the 118th Labor Day, workers held large-scale gatherings in a festive mood across the nation yesterday.

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions held its own event with 7,500 workers in Daehakno, Seoul, from 2 p.m. yesterday. Late in the afternoon, the participants marched 3.2 kilometers to the Cheonggye Square, via Jongno.

Even though it was a large-scale event, not a single collision appeared. Instead, the event drew much attention from the public since it exhibited a variety of cultural activities.

The labor union declared a fight against the government yesterday. However, it criticized the government’s pro-conglomerate policies and free trade agreement with the United States with a sense of humor via songs and dance performances.

Lee Mi-yeong, a 31-year-old citizen who watched the event, said, “I was happy to see the large-scale event conducted in good order. It was a gathering where anybody can participate regardless of ideology.”

KCTU workers’ march was not different. The parade was led by around 40 people who played traditional Korean musical instruments, not by violent demonstrators wearing masks and caps.

Workers marched peacefully while shouting their own slogans. Their march followed by funny characters could be associated with a parade.

Ha Gun-ja, 48, who saw the march from the bus, said, “Workers who participated in the Labor Day events last year were very combative. But, it’s different this year. There are lots of things to enjoy.”

Kim Jin-hyeok of the KCTU explained, “We introduced more cultural performances this year. We made such a decision to enjoy Labor Day with citizens and deliver our will to the public more efficiently.”

Neither riot police nor their cars appeared yesterday.

Instead of dispatching riot police to the event, police supported the marches by controlling traffic. The labor union had 300 security guards support the event.

A source from the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said, “The KCTU promised to conduct the event peacefully in a festive mood. We felt that their stance has changed a lot.”

The union had initially planned to hold a gathering of 30,000 workers, pass by Seodaemun and Gwanghwamun, and return to the Seoul Plaza.

When the Seoul city government and police objected to the plan, citing the possibility of serious traffic jams, the KCTU reduced the number of participants and changed its route.

The Federation of Korean Trade Unions also held a marathon event for the irregular employees working at smaller suppliers at the Jamsil Olympic Stadium. Workers participated in the marathon event along with their families and enjoyed running yesterday in a festive mood.

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