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Unionists to Field Candidates

By Heo Yun-seon, The Korea Times, 18 April 2002

With the local elections coming up in June, unionists here are vowing to field their own candidates and at the same time organizing nationwide campaigns to discourage prospective contenders who are hostile to labor unions.

We are arranging the campaign to boost the political strength of unionists, said Park Tong, planning and coordination chief of the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU).

The organization, which claims nearly 950,000 members, is the nation’s largest umbrella labor group.

The drive is based on the urgent need to have representatives in political circles who will advocate the workers’ interests, Park said.

In effect, the organization has chosen 89 candidates for the June 13 elections. When it embarks on the action next month, the labor group will post the names of targeted candidates on its Web site, while initiating street campaigns in cooperation with civic groups.

But the move is causing concerns since campaigns against specific contenders are prohibited by law. In 2000, the Constitutional Court reaffirmed that the provision is constitutional.

We don’t intend to violate the law, Park countered. However, we will do whatever it takes for workers to gain political power and get them into the nation’s political circles, he explained. The FKTU official said that their ultimate goal is to form a political party of labor unionists by 2004.

In a similar move, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), the nation’s second largest umbrella group, said that it plans to field at least 100 unionists as candidates in local elections. Officials at the KCTU said that their campaign would be centered in South Kyongsang province, such as the cities of Pusan, Ulsan, Changwon and Kumi, where large-scale industrial complexes are concentrated.