[Newsmaker] KCTU stages nationwide strike over next year’s minimum wage
Published : Jul 18, 2019 - 15:59
Updated : Jul 18, 2019 - 16:23
The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, one of the country’s two biggest umbrella unions, staged multiple strikes across the country Thursday in protest against key labor policies of the Moon Jae-in administration.

Among the slew of policies labor groups have condemned, next year’s minimum hourly wage that will fall short of reaching 10,000 won ($8.50) is at the center of amplifying discontent.

Some 50,000 members of the KCTU joined demonstrations held nationwide, of which about 5,000 rallied in front of the National Assembly in Yeouido, western Seoul, Thursday afternoon as the parliamentary Environment and Labor Committee convened to review expansion of the flexible working hours system.

“The general strike on July 18th is an emergency measure for the retrogressive revised labor law,” the KCTU said.

“Stop the retrogressive revision. Secure fundamental labor rights. Abolish irregular positions. Reform chaebols. Stop the suppression of labor (groups).”

Members of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions gathered in front of the National Assembly on Thursday in protest against key labor policies of the Moon Jae-in administration, including next year’s minimum hourly wage. (Yonhap)

Last week the Minimum Wage Commission finalized the minimum wage for 2020 at 8,590 won per hour, up 2.87 percent on-year, marking its third-lowest rate of increase.

Following the decision President Moon Jae-in -- whose election campaign pledges included raising the figure to 10,000 won within the first three years of his term -- apologized for failing to keep his pledge.

Rep. Choi Woon-yeol of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, who serves on the party’s Policy Committee, criticized the strike, saying “disregarding the public sentiment and expressing dissatisfaction in a radical way is not an alternative to solve the problem.”

“President Moon-Jae made a truthful apology for not fulfilling his vow for a 10,000 won per hour minimum wage. Yet the KTCU has defined the Moon Jae-in government as one that suppresses labor groups. … Just as companies should break away from outdated management, labor unions also have to break away from the framework of the 20th-century industrialization age,” Choi added.

Meanwhile, next year’s minimum hourly wage has drawn vehement objection from labor groups, the core support base of the Moon government. Representatives of the KCTU and the Federation of Korean Trade Unions pulled out of the tripartite commission earlier in the week.

Claiming there are “fundamental problems” in next year’s minimum wage and the decision-making process, the Federation of Korean Trade Unions demanded a second look into the minimum wage. 

By Kim Bo-gyung (