Labor unions which are allowed to engage in political activities in the revised labor laws are poised to increase their political clout. In particular, they are saying that they will actively participate in the presidential election slated for later this year.
The unions' involvement in politics had long been considered taboo or outlawed in the country before the new labor laws lifted the ban last week. With the elimination of the stumbling block, the moves by the nation's two major umbrella unions to expand their political influence are gaining momentum.
The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU, the nation's second largest umbrella union, said that it will launch a "presidential election planning corps'' in May. KCTU leaders said the planning corps will develop into a 10,000-strong group to promote the unions' active participation in the presidential election in December.
When asked as to how they will engage in the elections, KCTU leaders said there are two possible options; Either have their own candidate run for presidency or support a union-friendly candidate. They said the final option between the two will be determined by a vote conducted by its member unions across the nation by the end of August.
In a more substantial move to participate in the presidential election, a meeting of union representatives in Seoul decided to raise political funds last Wednesday. The Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU, the nation's largest umbrella union with 1.2 million members nationwide, also expressed its willingness to engage in the elections.
FKTU leaders said that they will begin their political activities in July to "connect the presidential election with its struggle to improve labor-related institutions.'' During the October-November period, the FKTU said it will launch nationwide circuit tours, a politically-motivated program, "to liquidate the regional-based politics.''
Though they did not explain in detail, some FKTU leaders said the umbrella union will likely launch a public campaign for a presidential candidate who has the unions' support.