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[Editorial] Respond sternly

Trade group dares a series of sit-ins to press government to stay labor-friendly

Nov. 15, 2018 - 17:13 By Korea Herald
The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions began a sit-in near the gate of the premises of the presidential office on Wednesday.

Thirteen members including its leader Kim Myeong-hwan condemned the administration under President Moon Jae-in for “joining hands with chaebol tycoons and trying to shut itself off from laborers.”

They vowed to “straighten its labor policy direction through a general strike.”

The group has called a general strike on Nov. 21, and plans to continue the sit-in near Cheong Wa Dae until Nov. 20.

It has ramped up sit-down demonstrations recently.

Irregular workers of GM Korea stormed a conference room of Changwon Regional Employment and Labor Office on Monday and began a sit-in.

It was the KCTU’s fourth sit-in in a government labor office this year.

Irregular workers of Hyundai Motor and its sibling Kia Motors staged a sit-in in Seoul Regional Employment and Labor Office from Sept. 20 to Oct. 7.

KCTU officials illegally occupied the office of the head of Daegu Regional Employment and Labor Office from Oct. 11-31.

Irregular workers of Korea JobWorld broke into one of its offices on Nov. 7 to demand direct employment. Korea JobWorld is a public institution which provides job experience and career counseling services.

Members of a KCTU-affiliated industrial union of public-sector and transportation workers occupied the mayoral office of Gimcheon, North Gyeongsang Province, on Oct. 30 and 31. They demanded conversion of short-term contract workers of the city to indefinite contract workers.

Sit-ins did not happen only in government offices.

Members of GM Korea Union have held a sit-in in the office of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea Floor Leader Rep. Hong Young-pyo in his election district of Bupyeong, Incheon, since Nov. 8.

On Tuesday, nine members of the KCTU held a sit-down demonstration in the lobby of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office, the nation’s top investigative agency.

They demanded the prosecution investigate those companies which refuse to convert irregular workers to regular staff.

It is dumbfounding that the labor group held a sit-in inside a government agency that cracks down on illegal demonstrations. The KCTU acts like it owns the world. The role of law enforcement agencies in all of this is pitiful.

Outside the building of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office, about 100 irregular workers pitched tents for a sit-down demonstration. Employees of the office are said to have left the building through a back door after work to avoid the protest.

It took about eight hours before police evicted the protesters from their surprise demonstration at around 9 p.m.

It is hard to deny that the KCTU’s disregard of the rule of law has been embolded by the government’s lethargic response.

Moon pledged on the stump to create a society which respects labor, and his administration has worked out a spate of labor-friendly measures.

Law enforcement agencies effectively stood idly by as protesters broke the law, effectively encouraging labor groups to stage sit-ins in government offices in the belief they would face no consequences. No wonder. The government and the ruling party are wary of the KCTU, one of major groups which spearheaded the candlelight protests that eventually led to Moon’s election.

The group is getting rougher and bolder over recent issues: Tardy progress in the conversion of irregular workers to regular employees, and government moves to allow the shortened workweek to be managed flexibly and slow the pace of the minimum wage hike.

Moon’s chief of staff Im Jong-seok Tuesday said in the National Assembly, “The KCTU and the Korea Teachers Union are not disadvantaged groups any more. I am looking at them with much trouble and concern.”

Referring to the ongoing sit-in at his office, floor leader Hong told reporters, “I feel mortified. I have no intention to meet KCTU leaders unless it apologizes.”

He also condemned the GM Korea Union’s sit-ins at the office of the CEO of GM Korea in April and July as a terrorist act.

The labor group displays insolence blatantly, carrying its points through confrontation rather than dialogue. If it keeps acting in this way, it will be turned away by the people.

Now is not time to watch law and order crumble. If the government and the ruling party can see the group for what it really is, they must act, not talk.