Jan. 23  2020
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Hospital Workers' Sit-in at the Myongdong Cathedral

On September 11, 2002, 3,000 riot police stormed the hospitals where striking workers were staging their sit-in at the hospital ground and lobby.

Today marks 145th day of strike and 20th day of hunger strike by the workers of the Kangnam St. Mary's Hospital, Yoido St. Mary's Hospital, and Uijongbu St. Mary's Hospital (which are branches of the Catholic Medical Centre headed by Archbishop Nicolau Jeong Jin-seok of the Seoul Archdiocese) and Mokpo Catholic Hospital. More women workers are set to join in the hunger strike as some of the hunger-strikers have been taken to hospital due to severe health deterioration.

Over 600 hospital workers are staging a supplication sit-in at the Myongdong Cathedral and in front of the office of the Archdiocese of Seoul.

Hunger Strike to Appeal to the Merciful Intercession of Mary

On September 25, 30 hospital workers from the Catholic Medical Centre, including the leaders of the Union, began a hunger strike to call on the Catholic Church to intercede in the dispute between the union and the management of the Catholic hospital.

Hunger strike began to take toll on the nurses by the end of the second week. On October 10, 8 nurses, in their 16th day of their hunger strike, were taken to hospital for emergency treatment as doctors warned dire consequences to their health. On October 13, in her 19th day of hunger-strike, Ms. Cha Soo-ryun, the president of the Korean Health and Medical Workers Union, ended her hunger strike as doctors warned that her heart may suffer critical failure if she continues with the hunger strike. President Cha, however, has refused to be taken to a hospital, as warrant of arrest has been issued against her.

Striking Hospital Workers Have Nowhere to Go Except the Myongdong Cathedral

Workers from four hospitals run by the Catholic Church in Korea have sought the sanctuary of the Church compound following a police raid at the hospital where they were carrying out a sit-in strike.

On September 11, 2002, 3,000 riot police stormed the hospitals where striking workers were staging their sit-in at the hospital ground and lobby.

In response to "objection" by the union and civic organisations supporting the striking workers to the police "entry" to the hospital, police showed them an official letter from the management of the hospital approving the police raid into the hospital.

Police chased fleeing women workers all the way to the hospital chapel to drag them out. Women workers holding on to the crucifix at the chapel were wrenched away by policewomen, as the management of the Catholic hospital stood by.

A total of 241 (mainly) women workers were carried away by the riot police. 7 union leaders of the Catholic hospitals were formally arrested and were put to jail.

Following a clean sweep of the striking workers, barricades of riot police have been established at the hospitals.

Women workers ejected from the hospital, and the union leaders who are wanted for arrest by police at the prompting of the management of the Catholic hospitals, have sought the sanctuary of the Myongdong Cathedral to continue their struggle. Women workers are holding daily protest meetings in front of the hospitals while they are camping in some 10 large tents set up in the grounds of the Myongdong Cathedral.

Myongdong Cathedral Reconsidered

Myongdong Cathedral, a renowned sanctuary of the oppressed people's struggle, has not been without tension. The authority at the Cathedral has issued "eviction orders" on five occasions since the Catholic hospital workers set up their tents in the Cathedral grounds.

The tension is "expected" as the Catholic Church of Korea, either through the management of the hospitals or involvement of the official Church leadership, is a "party" to the current dispute, while, at the same time, it is called on to act as a mediator and provider of sanctuary and intercession.

The corporate body of the Church is challenged by the current industrial dispute at the hospitals it operates to demonstrate its integrity. (This is true of the hospital workers themselves, as some 60% of the striking workers are catholic.)

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BASE21 News Desk

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