South Korean protesters plan day of strikes, street rallies

SEOUL (AFP) - South Korean unionists and other activists have announced plans for a day of nationwide strikes and street rallies in protest at labour reforms and free trade negotiations with the United States.

The militant Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) said 300,000 members, largely auto workers, would join a day-long stoppage Wednesday in protest at proposed labor legislation.

Separately, a coalition of activist groups said an estimated 71,000 people would take to the streets of Seoul and 12 provincial cities on the same day to denounce the proposed free trade agreement (FTA) with the US.

"The government has chosen to ignore our voices or concerns. Therefore, we believe we have no alternative but to proceed with our plan to launch a full-fledged general strike," KCTU chief Jo Jun-Ho told a news conference.

He said tens of thousands of workers would walk out at the four major carmakers -- Hyundai Motor, Kia Motors, GM Daewoo and Ssangyong Motor -- for eight hours on Wednesday.

He said strikers would also include up to 10,000 unionized teachers, chemical industry workers and truckers. Strikers would stage a 15,000-strong rally in Seoul Wednesday and rallies are also planned in 15 provinces.

The KCTU, which launched a four-hour "warning" strike last week, has demanded the government's "sincere response" to its opposition to reforms aimed at making the labor market more flexible.

It said four-hour stoppages would be staged daily from November 23-28 and another eight-hour strike on November 29.

"The strike will continue indefinitely -- until the government gives a sincere response to our demands in a responsible manner," Jo said.

Hyundai Motor and its sister firm Kia Motors, the country's two biggest automakers, lost production of 2,500 cars due to the four-hour strike last week.

The auto industry is a key growth engine for the export-driven economy.

The KCTU claims a membership of 642,000 at 1,200 worksites.

It strongly opposes proposed labour reforms, including attempts to reduce disparities between "regular" workers on full contracts with unemployment, pension and health benefits, and irregular workers with far fewer benefits.

The government says the country needs a more flexible labour market and unions must accept gradual change.

The KCTU also opposes the FTA negotiations, as does an activist coalition called The Korean Alliance against the Korea-US FTA.

The coalition has told police that out of 71,000 demonstrators nationwide, some 5,000 are expected to rally in Seoul's city centre late Wednesday.

"We plan to mobilize some 7,800 riot police in Seoul alone to prevent the protest from turning violent," a National Police Agency official told AFP.

The coalition urged people to display banners, attach bumper stickers and sign petitions. It also asked South Koreans to join a boycott of US beef, which it says is being imported despite fears over mad cow disease.

President Roh Moo-Hyun's government has been pushing for the free trade pact despite strong opposition from farmers, workers and other activists who fear for their incomes and jobs.

In the last mass protests in July riot police used water cannon as some 70,000 people, including 13,000 farmers, rallied in downtown Seoul.

After a fourth round of talks last month, both sides expressed hope for an eventual deal even though the lengthy negotiations will drag on into next year.

A fifth round is scheduled for December in the United States and a sixth in South Korea in January.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Total 19
No. Subject Name Regdate Hits
19 Report for the WTO General Council review of the Trade policies of Republic of Korea (Geneva, 19 and 21 September, 2012) update [92] KCTU 2013.02.15 281436
18 NGO Statement on the case of Hanjin Heavy Industries & Construction in Philippines [7] KCTU 2009.03.05 266711
17 AFL-CIO letter on KGEU [9] KCTU 2008.08.02 263585
16 ITUC Online : Korea : Anti-union repression continue [7] KCTU 2008.08.02 268549
15 ITUC Press : ITUC and TUAC express opposition to current Korea-United States free trade agreement [5] KCTU 2008.08.02 254682
13 The Road to an Undesirable Deal - Understanding the Kor-US FTA [8] KCTU 2007.02.22 271103
12 No to UN Security Council Sanctions against North Korea [6] KCTU 2006.11.27 258628
11 KCPT Statement On the Erection of Barbed Wire from November 9, 2006 [7] KCPT 2006.11.27 264057
» (AFP) South Korean protesters plan day of strikes, street rallies [6] KCTU 2006.11.22 252494
9 [Reuters] South Korea braces for major strike on Wednesday [6] KCTU 2006.11.22 266671
8 Joint Statement on Shwe Gas Development Project in Burma [7] KCTU 2006.11.18 263609
7 PSSP Statement on North Korea's Nuclear Test [5] PSSP 2006.11.10 256188
6 The Real Understanding of the KORUS FTA update [66] KoA 2006.10.25 257587
5 [Statement] Stop KORUS FTA Right Now! [5] KoA 2006.10.24 267467
4 [Report of Minbyun] Situation of Civil and Political Rights in Republic of Korea update [5] KCTU 2006.10.23 264732
3 FKTU paper on the KORUS FTA [7] KCTU 2006.08.02 258953
2 Down with the US-South Korea FTA and neoliberal globalization! [5] KCTU 2006.07.13 259554
1 [KoPA] WTO Strategy Paper from Korean Movements [12] KCTU 2003.08.14 282107
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