South Korea braces for major strike on Wednesday

Washington Post
Tuesday, November 21, 2006; 2:03 AM

SEOUL (Reuters) - A major South Korean labor group has called for a
nationwide strike on Wednesday, aiming to bring hundreds of thousands of
workers onto the streets to protest over labor laws and a planned trade
deal, organizers said on Tuesday.

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), one of the country's
biggest umbrella labor groups with 800,000 members, said it expects
200,000 people to jam Seoul and other cities.

Typically, crowds are often far below initial projections, but can
still be large enough to snarl traffic and sometimes spill over to rail
and transport workers, slowing commerce.

"The government has chosen to ignore our voices of concern. Therefore,
we believe we have no alternative but to proceed with our plan to launch
a fully-fledged strike," the group said in a statement.

The KCTU is seeking laws to protect non-unionized labor, a stop to
South Korea-U.S. talks on a bilateral free trade deal and reform of
occupational safety legislation.

The main strikers are likely to come from the automobile, steel and
chemical industries, organizers said.

The KCTU had a warning strike last week in front of parliament, where
several thousand members called on the government to revamp labor laws.

Public sympathy for large labor movements has been waning since the
strikes of a generation ago when unions took to the streets against
authoritarian governments.

Many in the country now see them as slowing productivity with frequent
strikes, making the economy less competitive than Asian rivals.
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