Korean Gen Strike Ballooning In Size

Lao Tse (tao@tao.ca)
Tue, 31 Dec 1996 15:01:06 +0000 ()

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/** headlines: 102.0 **/ ** Topic: Korean Gen Strike Ballooning In Size ** ** Written 8:07 AM Dec 30, 1996 by newsdesk in cdp:headlines ** Note: For much more in depth coverage of the strike in Korea visit the conference <A HREF="news://news.igc.apc.org/labr.asia">labr.asia</a>.

/* Written 3:21 PM Dec 28, 1996 by labornews@igc.org in labr.asia */ /* ---------- "Korean Gen Strike Ballooning In Siz" ---------- */

From: Institute for Global Communications <labornews@igc.apc.org> Subject: Korean Gen Strike Ballooning In Size

December 28, 1996 New York Times

350,000 on Strike in South Korea as Unrest Spreads


By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ) ) [S] EOUL, South Korea -- In the country's largest ) labor strike ever, nearly 350,000 workers put ) down their tools today, paralyzing hundreds of ) plants and forcing an emergency meeting of the ) Cabinet. ) ) Two nationwide labor groups have organized the ) strike to protest the secretive passage in ) Parliament of a labor law that union leaders fear ) could lead to widespread layoffs. ) ) One union, an outlawed group called the Federation ) of Democratic Unions, began its action on ) Thursday. It reported that 212,000 workers at 172 ) work sites had walked out by this afternoon. ) ) The group, a militant federation formed two years ) ago, controls most hard-line unions at automobile, ) shipyard and other major export plants. It said ) today that at least half of its combined ) membership of 500,000 would join in the strike by ) early next week. ) ) But it was the participation of a second union, ) the Government-sanctioned Federation of Korean ) Trade Unions, that caused the strike to balloon in ) size today. ) ) By this afternoon, it said 137,000 workers ) belonging to 472 unions under its umbrella had ) stopped working. ) ) Although the group had initially planned only a ) 23-hour strike, today it urged its 1.5 million ) members to stop work until the new year. ) ) The group claims a larger membership than its more ) radical counterpart, but most of its members work ) at small companies and are not well organized. It ) has cooperated with authorities in the past, but ) its participation now has made the current strike ) unprecedented in scope. ) ) Startled by the unrest, Cabinet ministers huddled ) in an emergency meeting today. When they emerged ) hours later, they promised to stop the strike from ) pushing South Korea's already ailing economy ) further into recession. ) ) "The Government will not tolerate this illegal ) strike for any reason," Finance and Economy ) Minister Han Sung Soo said in a nationally ) televised statement. ) ) Government officials did not elaborate, but ) prosecutors said they were considering sending the ) police to intervene if the strike continued. In ) the past, the police arrested union leaders and ) broke up sit-ins blocking nonunion workers from ) company grounds. ) ) But labor leaders appeared undeterred. "This ) action of general strike is a historical struggle ) in order to defend the rights and living standards ) of workers," Park In Sang, the larger union's ) chief, said at a news conference today. ) ) If the strike continues to grow, it could be ) devastating to South Korea's export-led economy. ) The country is expected to register a record $20 ) billion trade deficit this year, and stock prices ) have plunged to their lowest level in three years. ) ) Hardest hit by the protests was the automobile ) industry, which saw four major plants -- Hyundai, ) Kia, Ssangyong and Asia Motors -- all idled. ) ) The world's largest shipyard, Hyundai Heavy ) Industries, remained shut for the second day ) today. Workers at the country's second-largest ) shipyard, Daewoo Shipbuilding and Heavy Machinery, ) also left their jobs today. ) ) South Korea is the world's sixth-largest ) automaker, with a daily production capacity of ) 10,000, of which 4,000 are destined for overseas. ) The nation gets about a third of the world's ) commercial shipbuilding orders. ) ) Those joining the strike today included unionists ) at 14 major hospitals in Seoul. All hospital ) employees except those assigned to emergency ) duties left their jobs, union leaders said. ) ) The workers are protesting a new law that would ) give more power to management while postponing the ) right of multiple unions to operate at any work ) site until 2000. ) ) In addition, the new law gives businesses greater ) freedom to lay off workers and reschedule work ) hours. Workers fear corporate managers will use ) the new freedom in a business slowdown. ) ) President Kim Young Sam's governing New Korea ) Party secretly convened Parliament before dawn on ) Thursday to pass the labor and several other bills ) in seven minutes with no opposition members ) present. ) ) Mr. Han, the Economy Minister, tried to reassure ) union and opposition leaders today, saying that ) the Government would insure that businesses do not ) abuse the new labor law. ) ) But opposition lawmakers were also upset by the ) passage of a bill that gives expanded powers to ) the nation's chief intelligence agency. They fear ) it will be used to stifle political dissent. ) ) At Parliament, 100 opposition legislators held a ) protest rally in front of the granite building, ) shouting: "Let's crush Kim Young Sam's coup ) d' tat!" They continued a sitdown protest for a ) second day.

** End of text from cdp:headlines **

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