S.Korean workers march for more rights

Ulhas Joglekar ulhasj at SPAMbom4.vsnl.net.in
Fri Dec 24 04:48:50 MST 1999

24 December 1999
S.Korean workers march for more rights
SEOUL, South Korea: About 10,000 workers marched in central Seoul on
Thursday to demand a shorter work week and more rights. The march was part
of a one-day protest organized by the Federation of Korea Trade Unions,
South Korea's largest labor umbrella group.
Shouting, "Guarantee our livelihood," the protesters denounced the
government as paying too little attention to the demands of workers who
suffered most in the nation's economic difficulty.
Armed with helmets, batons and shields, some 8,000 riot police stood guard
against a possible violence, but there were no reports of clashes or
The federation said 1,01,000 workers put down their tools in response to the
strike call, but government officials said only 16,500 workers walked out.
The federation called a similar half-day strike last Friday. Federation
leaders said they will organize larger protests early next year.
Officials ruled Thursday's strike illegal, saying it was political. But they
planned no action to break the strike.
Among other things, workers demanded a cut in the work week from 44 hours to
40 hours and the revision of a 1997 law that, as of 2002, bans companies
from paying full-time union leaders.
Labor leaders believe that the new provision will weaken unions, especially
smaller ones that do not have enough funds to pay their union leaders. Also
on Thursday, about 5,000 people in a declining coal mine city near the east
coast held an outdoor rally to demand government subsidies for their town.
Citizens formed barricades with heavy mining equipment on the highways
leading out of Taebaek, 200 km (124 miles) east of Seoul, the national news
agency Yonhap said. Protesters later dispersed after government officials
promised more subsidies and jobs.
All South Korean coal mines are operated by the government. As the demand
for coal declined, the government has begun phasing out most of the mines,
resulting in sharp economic declines in coal mine cities along the east
coast. (Associated Press)
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