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Massive Anti-U.S. Beef Rally Slated for the Weekend

Posted June. 06, 2008 04:27,   


The nation is likely to find itself once again embroiled in a series of candlelight vigils to protest U.S. beef imports this weekend.

A coalition opposing U.S. beef imports comprised of citizens, students and unionists has been preparing for a 72-hour nonstop rally beginning Thursday.

The nation`s two largest labor umbrella groups, the Federation of Korean Trade Unions and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, have also threatened to strike in protest of U.S. beef imports, casting ballots to decide whether to do so.

Meanwhile, business circles have voiced their concerns over these moves by the labor sector, which they believe could lead to seasonal labor conflicts striking a dent on the already jittery economy.

A coalition of civic groups against mad cow disease staged a candlelight vigil opposing U.S. beef imports Thursday night. The candlelight vigil was scheduled to be held at Seoul City Hall, but had to be moved to the main gate of Deoksu Palace due to a protest being held at City Hall by another organization. Some 20,000 protesters participated in the rally.

The protesters continued street marches and camped on-site shouting catchphrases such as “The Lee administration should step down,” “No to beef riddled with mad cow disease,” and “No to privatization of public businesses.”

Many more citizens are expected to join the three-day rally given the long weekend.

A police source said, “Although weather may be an important factor, we expect a greater number of citizens to participate in the rally, especially on the observance of the anniversary of the June 10 Democratic Struggle.”

In particular, many raise concerns about a massive conflict with police, like the one seen last weekend, considering the aggressive participation in protests by labor unions.

The Federation of Korean Trade Unions said it would go on strike starting June 16 if the votes turn out in favor of a strike. The organization added that it would let 100,000 union members participate in the candlelight rally slated for June 10, aside from its measure on the general strike.

In the face of tough measures by labor circles, the business sector has shown lukewarm responses, saying, “The labor unions made such an indiscrete decision when the nation is on the verge of economic collapse amid soaring oil and commodity prices, and global economic downturns.”

The Korea Employers Federation released a statement criticizing, “The Federation of Korean Trade Unions is waging conflicts under the catchphrase of ‘For the Public Health.’ However, its words are nothing but a cause for waging war with management. Its intention is to wage an illegal strike on the back of the current public anger over U.S. beef imports, avoid criticism of its military conflicts, and secure the initiative in tripartite relations among the government, management and the union.”