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[Op-Ed] MOU Between Police and Umbrella Union

Posted May. 01, 2009 07:23,   


As the negotiations initiated by the U.S. government to save Chrysler broke down after creditors rejected the terms, the auto manufacturer is likely to go bankrupt. United Auto Workers, which led hostile protests, said it made big concessions to grab a second chance at recovery offered by the government, but this failed. U.S. President Barack Obama said the union sacrificed a lot, but it is too early to say if Chrysler workers in the United States will keep their jobs.

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions is the Korean equivalent of the U.S. umbrella auto union. At this year’s Seoul Motor Show, where 158 companies from nine countries participated in early April, some 40 confederation members sprayed cattle blood and used violence against a policeman who was trying to stop them. This was the first action taken by confederation chairman Yim Sung-gyu, who was elected a month ago. “I will wage war against the Lee Myung-bak dictatorship that has destroyed the lives of low-income families and democracy,” he said.

His second action will come today – a Labor Day protest led by the confederation. Police in Seoul’s Yeongdeungpo district said they signed a memorandum of understanding Tuesday with the confederation that it will hold a peaceful protest. The agreement is a document confirming what was agreed on before drawing up an official treaty or contract between countries. It is like writing a memorandum of marriage and announcing it. Since this is not an engagement or even marriage, it can be broken anytime. It might be morally responsible but not legally binding.

”Union members believe they can get wages only when companies survive. This is a rational change,” Yim said Tuesday. “We won’t wage a nationwide protest as a form of blackmail.” It is confusing, however, to see that he will hold a nationwide event to judge the Lee administration and honor the spirit of anti-U.S. beef imports protests on Labor Day. This is quite different from what he claimed as a rational change. Why did police sign the agreement with the confederation? They could just conduct law enforcement in accordance with the rule of law. It is hard to believe that those who rarely abide by the law will follow a legally non-binding accord.

Editorial Writer Kim Soon-deok (yuri@donga.com)