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Sender: o-imap@webmap.missouri.edu
Date: Fri, 27 Dec 96 20:38:28 CST
From: rich%pencil@PSUVM.PSU.EDU (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: Korean Legislature Rams Anti-Labor Bill Through
Article: 3011

/** labr.global: 324.0 **/
** Topic: Korean Leg Rams Anti-Labr Legislation Through **
** Written 11:44 PM Dec 26, 1996 by labornews in cdp:labr.global **

Assembly Passage of 2 Bills Draws Outrage from Opposition, Labor Circles

By Shin Yong-bae, The Korea Herald, 27 December 1996

The ruling New Korea Party railroaded two controversial bills on labor and the nation’s spy agency through the National Assembly in the absence of opposition lawmakers at dawn yesterday. The unilateral passage prompted uproar from the opposition and labor unions. Opposition lawmakers went into a sit-in protest in the Assembly, while union leaders called a nationwide strike.

In a plenary session opened at 6 a.m. and presided over by an Assembly vice speaker, 155 ruling party lawmakers passed the bills quietly in just six minutes in a standing vote. The party holds 157 seats in the unicameral 299-member legislature. The action was an inevitable choice in the face of the opposition’s blockade of the passage, said a spokesman for the ruling party.

The opposition had effectively blocked the Assembly from being put on a normal track during the past week by confining the Assembly speaker to his room. Outmaneuvered by the ruling party’s dawn railroading of the bills, opposition lawmakers immediately declared it null and void. They had left the Assembly building for Christmas Wednesday and rushed belatedly to the dawn session.

The angry lawmakers from the National Congress for New Politics (NCNP) and the United Liberal Democrats (ULD) vowed that they will launch a joint offensive against the ruling camp. The ruling party’s action is tantamount to a coup. It shows that the civilian government is turning into one led by a dictator, said the main opposition NCNP in a statement. The NCNP and the ULD had vehemently resisted the ruling party’s plan to pass the bills on labor and the Agency for National Security Planning (NSP) before the end of this year.

The opposition had claimed that the government was attempting to make the NSP, the former Korean CIA, more powerful to suppress dissents. The new law on the NSP revived the agency’s right to interrogate and arrest pro-North Korean elements, which was abolished after President Kim Young-sam, a former dissident, took office in early 1993.

But the ruling party said the NSP needs to be bolstered to cope with heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula following the incursion by a North Korean submarine into southern waters in September. The new NSP law failed to pass the legislature during the regular Assembly session, which ended last Wednesday, in the face of the opposition’s blockade. In the meantime, unionists responded angrily to the ruling party’s unilateral passage of the new labor laws, which they claimed restrict labor activities.

The laws allow companies to lay off employees and change their work schedules and ban workers from forming more than two unions at any work site until 2002. The new legislation also bans the formation of umbrella labor groups until 2000. The original bill proposed by the government had allowed the formation of more than two umbrella labor federations from next year.

The change angered the nation’s second largest labor group—the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions—which claims a membership of 500,000. The federation outlawed by the government had threatened to stage a nation wide general strike if the new labor bills were passed.