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Korean railway dispute escalates into General Strike this Saturday
UPDATE: The General Strike today saw more than a hundred thousand demonstrating in South Korean capital Seoul, but an almost total news blackout from western and global media. Meanwhile, KORAIL management threatened striking railway workers with dismissal if they do not return to work.
The Korean railway strike Rosa reported on just before Christmas has escalated. After the police raided the headquarters of the KCTU – one of the two TUC equivalents in Korea – seeking the leaders of its railway union affiliate, the KCTU has called a general strike this Saturday to protest against the increasingly authoritarian actions of the Korean government. The other trade union confederation, FKTU, has pledged its support, and the TUC will seek an urgent meeting with the Korean Ambassador to protest.
There are a number of ways you can show your support for Korean workers fighting for their rights and against the privatisation and restructuring of the Korean railway network (something British railway workers and commuters know all about.) You can join 14,000 others in sending a message to the Korean President and the Korail management, and you can take a selfie holding a sign to show your backing for the strike (see below.)
Condemnation of the raid on union offices has come not only from international union bodies like the International Trade Union Confederation and the International Transport Workers’ Federation, but from Amnesty International too. Polly Truscott, Deputy Asia-Pacific Programme Director at Amnesty International, said:
“This police raid violated international human rights and labour standards in many ways – from arresting trade union leaders in retaliation for strike action to the police using unnecessary and excessive force that resulted in workers being injured. The South Korean authorities must stop unlawful police raids and arrests of trade unionists, and respect the rights of striking workers.”
The government’s action is clearly contrary to its accession to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 1996, which was conditional on its adherence yo the core labour conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). And it comes hard on the heels of even IMF concerns about its employment policies, and concerns that Korea is lurching back towards the authoritarianism which marked the dictatorship which ended in 1987. The Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD adopted a resolution condemning the government’s deregistration of the teachers’ union only a fortnight ago – already condemned by the ILO Governing Body.
To take action in support of the union, you can download a sample with blank space or make one in your own design. The Korean words at the top of the sign read, “I am not fine!” This is now a common phrase being used by students, community members and other supporters of the rail strike to express their dissatisfaction with the Korean government. Korean posters and slogans usually read, “How are you?” “I am not fine!” followed by the reason you are “not fine” (the government’s repression, etc.)
In the blank space write the reason you are “not fine” – that is something you want to stop in Korea, such as “Stop rail privatisation”, “stop arrests of union members”, “withdraw arrest warrants for KRWU leaders”, “no more raids on union offices”, etc. Please send reports and pictures to the union and upload them on the union’s Facebook page, as well as your own to raise awareness of the dispute.