[OPE-L:3929] Re: Nationwide Strike in S.Korea Against

Chai-on Lee (conlee@chonnam.chonnam.ac.kr)
Fri, 3 Jan 1997 20:06:11 -0800 (PST)

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Seong-jin wrote in regard to the recent labor movement in Korea in [3885]

>However, it is hard to say that they will lead to a revolutionary
>conjuncture for following two reasons at this point.
>First, current confrontation between the government and labor unions
>(with opposition parties) seems to be tactically initiated or
>masterminded by President Kim Young Sam in order to aggravate social and
>economic crisis, which might contribute to strenghtening incumbent party
>coming Presidential election.

No. It is not intended to aggravate social and economic crisis but is rather
to circumvent the economic crisis. The 1996 was the worst since Seoul
olympic. The recently revised labor law incorporated many things the
capitalists asked for. It postponed the legalisation of the established
Federation of Democratic Unions for three years. It legally allowed the
dismissal of employees without retirement pay in case of the companies'
difficulties, it legalized the employment of substitutive workers in the
case of strike, it allowed fexible variation of the working days within 2
weeks. (you can employ workers longer than 8 hours a day if the total
working days for 2 weeks is in the certain limit). Most white collars do not
like this revision. The dismissal without retirement pay is mainly aimed to
the white collars. Maybe only one third of total white collars would remain
in the employment. Other two thirds are to be dismissed in the next three
years. Anti-government emotion is very strong at the moment. Although the
labor leaders were not so active in the protest, ordinary union members
became more militant. 90-95% vote for the strike. Leaders plan to continue
steadily and progressively strengthen the strike. Past strikes lived short.
Recent strikes are different. Alternative pauses and simultaneous strikes
are combined. They want to continue until July or August.

One point to be noted is the difficulties of Korean economy. Because many
companies collapse everyday, the revised labor law is justified. To save the
company, the workers are to be sacrificed. Nobody knows how the present
situation could end in the result. Another point to be noted is the
anomalous treatment of the revision by the parliament. The Korean
Association of Democratic civil lawyers is going to bring the revision
process to the court. The process itself cannot be justified, according to
them, by the mere fact that the revision was necessarily invited by the
difficult situation of national economy. Why is it not discussed in advance
in the parliament committees? Why is the time (and date) of the plenary
meeting of the parliament not informed in advance? etc.

>Second, the leadership of seemingly militant labor unions (Federation of
>Democratic Unions) is dominated by reformist and economistic labor

Yes, they are reformists. But they are not legalised by the revision, and so
cannnot be happy with it. Propagandists (newspapers, TV, etc.), too are
surprisingly silent about the revision and the strikes. In the past, they
unanimously refuted the strikes, but now they are not. They are also going
to the strike in the next week.

In solidarity,



Happy new year to the friends of ope-l.