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(en) General strike in Korea - July 23

From "Anarchist News Distribution (Platform )" <platform@geocities.com>
Date Wed, 22 Jul 1998 16:36:41 +0100
Organization http://flag.blackened.net/revolt/inter.html


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      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E
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KCTU Action Alert - July 20, 1998

KCTU Calls for General Strike Midst Government Repression And
      the Start of Mass Dismissals

 Government Arrests KCTU General
Secretary, Chairperson of KCTU Seoul
Regional Council

 Korean Confederation of Trade Unions will launch a
general strike on July 23. All members within 3
hours distance from Seoul are called on to converge
in Seoul for all day sit-in strike action. Over
50,000 KCTU members are expected to hold an
indefinite sit-in at major public centres in Seoul,
including the Seoul Railway Station Plaza, where
thousands of unemployed homeless workers have made
their home last few months.

              -----------------------
   Forwarded News 'of interest to anarchists'
  see bottom of post for source of this item
              -----------------------

The KCTU decision to call for another general strike
follows the refusal of the government and employers
to begin a consultation with the trade unions to
develop a socially acceptable framework and
principles of a genuine economic reform despite the
3 day coordinated strikes from July 14.

Government Rushes to Round Up Union Leaders

The KCTU decision is, also, a response to the
government's police action to arrest virtually all
important trade union leaders. As of July 20, nearly
100 KCTU central, federation, and local leaders are
wanted for arrest. Included in the list are Yoo Duk-
sang, the first vice-president of KCTU, Dan Byung-
ho, the president of the Korean Metal Workers
Federation, Kim Ho-seun, the president of Korean
Federation of Public Sector Union (at the same time
the president of the Korea Telecom Trade Union), and
Kim Kwang-shik, the president of 35,000 strong
Hyundai Motors Workers Union.

Currently five unionists are held in detention by
police: Koh Young-joo, the general secretary of
KCTU, Im Seung-kyu, the chairperson of the KCTU
Seoul Regional Council, Choi Yong-kuk, the
chairperson of Pusan-Yangsan Regional Council of the
Korean Metalworkers Federation (KMWF), Jeung Yoon-
seung, the chairperson of KMWF Inchon-Puchon
Regional Council, and Kim Seung-ho, a standing
executive committee member of the Hyundai Motors
Workers Union. (Mr Kang Jung-man, the president of
Hanil Danjo Trade Union was released the day after
the arrest, as a result of immediate protest by
KCTU. Dan Byung-ho narrowly escaped the capture as
the people in his office held off riot police which
raided the office.)

Koh Young-joo, KCTU general secretary, has
immediately begun a hunger strike to protest
government repression.

The Government-Employer Offensive

The spate of arrest signals the beginning of a
coordinated action by the government and the
employers to destroy the KCTU. The government and
employers have continued to ignore and reject the
KCTU demands and proposals for a genuine
consultation and social agreement as the foundation
of a socially acceptable economic reform and
restructuring. The Kim Dae Jung government, which
has been intent on following the dictate, wishes,
and the whims of the International Monetary Fund,
the U.S. government, and foreign capital, has
finally decided to remove the pretense of 'social
dialogue'.

As soon as the government made clear its decision,
the major conglomerate chaebol magnates, following
the government's lead, have begun to sack workers.
On July 16, the Hyundai Motors management sent
notice of dismissal to some 2,600 workers. On July
20, the management of the Daewoo Motors -- part
owned by the General Motors -- gave notice to the
Daewoo Motors Workers Union to sack 2,995 workers.

Hyundai Motors: The sack notice by the Hyundai
Motors management came despite the last minute
proposal by the Hyundai Motors Workers Union. In a
press conference, held July 16 morning, president
Kim Kwang-shik, proposed a comprehensive package of
"cost reduction" involving a suspension of allowance
payment (amounting to 250 billion won), working hour
reduction combine with work sharing by 1,800
workers, and 6 month of rotating leave involving
1,500 workers with 50% wage plus 30% of wage
compensation by fund raised by the union. The
Hyundai Motors had already shed 5,336 workers
through 3 rounds of "voluntary retirement". It had
submitted notice of layoff of 4,830 workers to the
Ministry of Labour. The management has already
announced that it intends to sack additional 6,842
workers if the union fails to agree to a 21.7%
reduction in wage. According to the management plan,
a total of 16,000 workers may lose their jobs this
year.

The management responded with disdain by sending out
notices to some 2,600 workers. The dismissal list
included Kim Kwang-shik, the president of the union,
most of the full-time union representatives, and
active delegate-shopstewards.

On July 20, 1998, despite the announcement by the
management of a temporary closure, nearly 10,000
workers reported to work in response to the call by
the union. They held protest sit-in. The workers
were joined by the family members of workers. Later
in the afternoon, the management announced an
addition three days of temporary closure to prevent
workers joining in the strike.

The forced strike by the Hyundai Motors Workers
Union is expected to intensify as workers realise
that the current management action is based on a
callous collusion between the government and the
employers.

Daewoo Motors: The action by the Hyundai Motors
management has been adopted as the model to follow
by other conglomerate magnates, as can be seen by
the sudden announcement by the Daewoo Motors. It is
said that a meeting of the major executives of the
Daewoo Group rallied together to follow the
Hyundai's lead. In the morning of July 20, the
Daewoo Motors management sent a notice of its
intention to sack 2,995 workers . The announcement
came as the morning newspapers reported that Kim Woo
Jung, the president of Daewoo Group, currently
serving as the chief representatives of the Korean
Federation of Industries, the umbrella organisation
of 30 largest chaebol groups -- at the same time the
chairperson the Korea International Labour
Foundation ("KOILAF" -- supposedly a civilian
"labour diplomacy" body to publicise the industrial
relations in Korea) funded by the government -- gave
a lecture calling for a restraint in dismissing
workers. The management declared a three-day
temporary closure, to give worker a "cooling off
period".

KCTU General Strike: an ultimatum

The anger of workers is not, however, showing any
sign of cooling off. Rather, KCTU unions and members
are fast realising that the day of a virtual
"showdown" with the blind government and reckless
employers is looming closer.

Today, KCTU president Lee Kap-yong issued an
ultimatum to the government. He outlined a
simplified set of demands to the government.

 * Undertake legal action against employers
perpetrating illegal mass dismissal and fulfill
the KCTU-Government agreement of June 5.

 * Hold a "Public Hearing" to identify the culprit
of the current economic crisis.

 * Suspend the current dismissal oriented
"structural adjustment" until the "Public
Hearing" is completed.

 - Adopt an effective plan to guarantee jobs for
the banks and companies forcibly closed by
the government

 - Suspend the government plan for public
utilities restructuration

 - Suspend the mass dismissals currently being
undertaken

 * Stop all repression of trade union struggle

Lee Kap-yong, in a press conference today, declared
"it is impossible to undertake a genuine reform of
the Korean economy without a thorough investigation
and accounting of those individuals -- the chaebol
magnates and the corrupt government official -- and
the structural problems that gave rise to the
crisis." The call for legal action against the
culprits of the crisis reflects the public
bewilderment and anger at the news that the family
of the bankrupt Hanbo Group -- the 13th largest
chaebol group -- held stashed away some 46 billion
won in a secrete Swiss bank account.

President Lee warned that the Kim Dae Jung
government is fast falling into the same problem of
"failure to reform" which brought about the collapse
of the previous Kim Young Sam government. He pointed
out that "the Kim Dae Jung government in the 6
months in government has abandoned any pretense of
standing on the side of people. It has rather
adopted the IMF as its only master and let the
chaebols and other ultra conservative elite groups
to dominate the government policies. In doing so, it
has abandoned all reform agenda which the people has
bestowed on Kim Dae Jung in electing him as the
president."

KCTU's ultimatum presents the minimum common ground
for a negotiated breakthrough of the impasse towards
a consultative process of a fundamental economic
reform. President Lee declared that KCTU will begin
an indefinite general strike on July 23 if
government fails to accept the KCTU demands.

Following the press conference, some 500 leaders of
the KCTU-affiliated unions held a special pledge
rally at the Myongdong Cathedral to carry out the
general strike. They declared that it is no longer
sufficient to carry on the struggle based on issues
of individual workplaces. Rather, time has come for
all workers and unions to fight under a single set
of slogans and demands. The resolution adopted at
the rally declared, "the current government policies
for structural reform has lost all its meaning as a
meaning response to the economic crisis. In the
government policy 'reform' has come to mean 'mass
dismissal'. As a result, workers are driven into
ruins. The Kim Dae Jung government's policies are
not brining about the recovery of the Korean
economy. It is accelerating a total social
destruction. It is only strengthening the chaebol
groups who are responsible for the current crisis
through their irresponsible and reckless
activities."

The special resolution described the current
coordination of government repression of KCTU and
the mass dismissals signaled by the chaebol magnates
as a "deliberate action to destroy all democratic
trade union movement and workers as a force for
genuine reform". The resolution declared, "we will
rise in a total general strike to frustrate the evil
intent", and pledged to organise strongest possible
general strike.

The Strike Programme

In a special message to all members, President Lee
Kap-yong called on all KCTU unions to begin strike
on July 23 if the government fails to heed KCTU
demands. He called on all unions within 3 hour
distance from Seoul to bring all their members to
Seoul. They will hold an ongoing protest rally and
over-night sit-in at major public centres in Seoul.
Unions in other regions are called on to organise
similar actions in their own location. Furthermore,
all other unions are to prepare to converge on Seoul
any time called by the leadership. Members coming to
Seoul have been informed to bring with them 1 week's
requirement in food, cooking tools, and sleeping
bags.

The Korean Metal Workers Federation plans to lead
the KCTU general strike by going into action one day
earlier. On July 22, KMWF members from the major
unions, such as the Daewoo Motors Workers Unions and
Hyundai Motors Workers Unions will hold a major
rally at the Seoul Railway Station.

On July 23, KCTU members will hold first general
strike rally at the Jongmyo Park in downtown Seoul
to be followed by a march to the Seoul Railway
Station. By 5 p.m., over 50,000 workers are expected
to prepare to spend the night at the Seoul Railway
Station and the Myongdong Cathedral for all-night
protest action. On July 24, the striking workers
will hold three simultaneous protest meetings in
front of the offices of the Financial Supervisory
Commission, the ruling National Congress for New
Politics, and the Korean Federation of Industries.
Around 4 p.m., workers at the three protest location
will spread to create a human chain that surrounds
the three major government and employers
organisations.

Workers who are not able to strike will be
encouraged to join the rallies and the all-night
protest actions.

Korea At A Cross-roads

KCTU, realising that the size of demonstrators going
into the night may lead to a confrontation with
police, declared that all protest actions will be
conducted peacefully. It has "ordered" all members
to comply with the directives of the leadership, and
"warned" the government not to provoke the striking
workers. In order to avoid any unnecessary clashes,
KCTU has identified a number of second, third line
locations for safe all-night protest action. KCTU
members are called on to restrain from confronting
the police despite any provocation and disperse to
gather at the second and third line locations.

The KCTU general strike beginning on July 23 is
expected to draw a new line in the KCTU-government
relations. KCTU has presented a new simplified set
of demands to the government as an ultimatum. The
KCTU demands are designed as the last resort effort
to create a minimum common ground between the
government and the trade union movement.
Government's positive response can lead to a
constructive -- while it cannot but always be
fragile -- common platform for a consultative
process towards a genuine economic reform. But the
government failure can only be construed as the
beginning of a government's war agains workers.

 For more information, contact

Yoon Youngmo
International Secretary
KCTU
email: inter@kctu.org
fax: +82-2-765-2011
tel.: +82-2-765-7269

 Korean Confederation of Trade Unions
 4th Fl. Samsun Bldg., 12-1 Samsun-Dong 1 Ga, Sungbuk-ku,
 Seoul 136-041, Korea
 Tel.: +82-2-765-7269 Fax: +82-2-765-2011
 E-mail: inter@kctu.org http://kctu.org

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