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Maligned Militant Umbrella Union Facing Collapse

Posted March. 13, 2009 08:10,   


“No medicine can cure this epidemic.”

This is how an official of the Korea Confederation of Trade Unions, a pillar of the Korean labor movement, diagnosed the situation facing the umbrella union.

Public opposition to the confederation first surfaced after an attempted rape allegedly committed by a senior staff member was disclosed early last month. This resulted in successive protests by member unions and a move to establish a third umbrella labor group.

The confederation held a 10-hour “grand forum on reform” to tackle its crisis yesterday, but the event degenerated into a circus of criticism that had been suppressed.

The event was intended as an opportunity to hear productive criticism and advice from progressive social leaders supportive of the progressive umbrella union. Instead, it showed the crisis the confederation is facing is so grave that it is on verge of disbanding.

Jeong Yoon-gwang, a policy official at the civic group Labor Front, said, “Cancer is spreading to many parts of the confederation, and the labor group is nearing death.”

“The confederation is said to have been suffering from cancer from four to five years ago, but the disease has spread throughout its body and there is no hope of survival.”

Jeong said, “Reforming the confederation is now impossible and it should prepare for death.”

Cho Hyeong-il, a executive member of the Coalition for Reform, said, “What is more serious is that the confederation’s crisis is nothing new and has been chronic,” adding, “The essence of the crisis is that the labor body has been urging reform for more than 10 years without putting it into practice.”

Lee Seung-woo, vice chairman of the National Coalition of Democratic Labor,” said, “The confederation is a grouping of bureaucratized senior staff, though it has inexperienced workers and expertise.”

“People say the time has already passed for the confederation to seek remodeling, and it must now dismantle its old house and build a new one.”

The umbrella union also faced criticism that its labor movement lacks labor participation.

Kim Min-young, secretary general of the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, said, “The confederation has become a spokesperson for regular workers, and is only serving as a special interest group.”

Jeong Seong-hee, a member of the progressive Democratic Labor Party, said, “The confederation must reflect on whether it has avoided self-reflection and been too lenient on itself, while blindly blaming government and capitalism for too many issues that it needs to take responsibility for.”