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From tta@mail.utexas.edu Tue Jul 11 11:15:22 2000
Date: Fri, 7 Jul 2000 23:38:26 -0500 (CDT)
From: Grassroots Media Network <tta@mail.utexas.edu>
Subject: [generalnews] South Korean union activists stage violent protest
Article: 99996
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

South Korean union activists stage violent protest

AFP, [7 July 2000]

SEOUL (AFP)—Thousands of South Korean labor activists battled riot police Thursday after an anti-government rally denouncing the government’s crackdown on union militancy.

The fight erupted when riot police stopped some 4,500 labor activists from burning a black coffin symbolizing the government of President Kim Dae-Jung.

A dozen people were injured, an AFP photographer at the scene said.

The protestors, led by union leaders from the Korea Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), one of the country’s two umbrella labor groups, hurled rocks and brandished clubs.

Some 2,000 police fought back with truncheons from behind shields. Several protestors with blood pouring from head wounds by colleagues after being kicked and trampled by police.

The government must immediately stop its crackdown on labor unions, shouted the protestors. Police allowed them to march through central Seoul after the clashes, which lasted one hour. The crowd later dispersed peacefully.

The protestors had been demanding an apology from President Kim, calling on his government to halt its economic reform drive.

We will stage an all-out anti-government struggle if the government rejects our demands, KCTU leader Dan Byong-Ho declared during the rally.

He threatened to organize nationwide anti-government protests, accusing the government of using police force to crush a series of strikes.

Dozens of people were injured last week when thousands of riot police stormed Seoul’s Lotte Hotel to end a strike by employees demanding better wages and working conditions.

Some 1,100 workers were detained during the raid, with six policemen and 30 protestors injured.

Thursday’s KCTU rally was also attended by leaders of the Korea Financial Industry Union (KFIU), which has called for a nationwide strike by bank employees next week.

Financial regulators and bank union leaders will meet on Friday in an attempt to broker a deal.

But prospects for a last-minute solution look bleak, with union members stating they did not think the government would back down from its reform program.

We are ready to cancel our plans for a strike if the government accepts our demands. But we don’t believe the government will change its policy, KFIU spokesman Parm Hee-Min said.

Tens of thousands of bank employee have already been laid off since the Asian financial crisis brought South Korea’s banking system to the verge of collapse in 1997.

The new wave of restructuring will see the government setting up holding companies to control banks, especially those banks which have received billions of dollars of public funds.

The government says the holding companies are necessary to bring a number of banks under one controlling unit and to improve their efficiency.

But unions contend the move represents a form of government intervention in the bank sector.

The government has formed a task force to combat chaos in the country’s financial system amid fears basic daily transactions could be paralyzed next week.

The government is trying hard to minimize the shock from a nationwide walkout, an FSC official said, adding the government’s steps would focus on keeping computer networks running at banks.

If needed, police will be mobilized to protect key facilities at banks, he added.