Both major trade union centrals in south Korea have announced general strikes in the weeks to come. The trade unions are upset with proposed government changes to the national labor law that makes it easier and legal for companies to lay off workers, increase the legal work-week from 44 to 56 hours and facilitate "flexible" work hours, legalize and accommodate the use of scab labor during strikes and make strike-pay illegal.
Government and business leaders have both said the changes are necessary to make south Korea "more competitive with other developing economies" that are emerging as fierce competitors on the global imperialist market. South Korea is suffering a prolonged economic slowdown as a result of decreasing exports and its highest-ever trade deficit of $20 billion. Like most dependent economies, the south Korean economy is integrated into the global market and is subject to the whims of the imperialist countries, especially the U.S. and Japan, the ever-increasing global competition, and the law of uneven development of capitalism.
The one-half million members of the Korean Confederation of Labor voted 90 percent in favor of a strike. The staggered general strike will begin this Friday with a four-hour walkout in the heavy industrial export industries, including 34,000 workers at Hyundai Motor Co., 18,000 workers at Kia, 21,000 workers at the Hyundai Heavy Industries Shipyard (the world's largest), 10,000 at Daewoo's shipbuilding unit, transit workers who operate the subway in Seoul, workers at 10 major hospitals in Seoul and tens of thousands of other workers in assorted industries.
The one and one-half million workers who belong to the Federation of Korean Trade Unions begin voting on strike action this Friday with a plan to join the other trade union central for a combined general strike December 16.
The fascist government has declared all strike action illegal and is coordinating plans with business leaders to attempt to break the strike by using "replacement workers" and threats of reprisals "to keep businesses running as usual".
University at Buffalo
Graduate School of Education