Jan. 23  2020
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Korean Hospital Workers Plan Desperate Appeal to the Pope

KHMWU president joined 8 other hospital workers who had ended their hunger strike due to the doctors' advice.

Fears for the Health and Life of Hunger-Strikers

Yesterday, Korean Health and Medical Workers Union president, Ms. Cha Soo-ryun, brought her hunger strike to an end after 19 days following strident medical advice of doctors that her life would be threatened if she continues with the hunger strike, and appeal by the KCTU leadership. President Cha, having ended the hunger strike, has, however, refused to be taken to a hospital, as she was wanted for arrest by police.

KHMWU president joined 8 other hospital workers who had ended their hunger strike due to the doctors' advice. On October 10, 8 nurses, who have been on hunger strike at the Myongdong Cathedral since September 25 were taken to hospital for emergency treatment.

They were part of the 30 nurses from three St. Mary's hospitals in Korea who have started a hunger strike in the course of the industrial dispute that began on May 23, 2002.

KHMWU president Cha's decision to end the strike was influenced also by the decision of the KCTU to step up its efforts to bring the dispute to an acceptable resolution, including the dispatch of an appeal mission to Vatican.

KCTU Delegation to the Vatican

KCTU will send a delegation, headed by one of its vice-presidents, to the Vatican to appeal for a special intercession by the Vatican and Pope. This decision is an extension of its efforts to persuade the leadership of the Catholic Church to intercede in the dispute involving the union of hospital workers and the management run by Catholic priests. KCTU will appeal to the spirit of respect for labour and trade union rights Pope John Paul II has outlined in the 1981 Encyclical "Laborem Exercens"

KCTU has been in contact with its sister organisations in Italy to seek their support and assistance in presenting its appeal to Pope and the Vatican. KCTU delegation will head for Rome/Vatican on October 21. The delegation originally planned to set out on supplication mission on October 14, but, local factors in Italy and the consideration for the continuing efforts to bring the parties in the dispute to a dialogue prompted the postponement of the departure.

The Desperate Struggle and Appeal

Hospital workers began protest sit-in on the hill of the Myongdong Cathedral downtown Seoul following a police raid at the Kangnam St. Mary's Hospital on September 11. The police raid, in which plain-clothed police chased striking workers all the way to the hospital's chapel, dragging them out under the main crucifix, ended with the arrest of over 200 nurses, and the imprisonment of 7 union leaders, including Ms Kim Young-sook, chairperson of the Yoido St. Mary's Hospital. The hospitals, cleared of striking workers, are now guarded by a permanent barricade of hundreds of fully uniformed riot police.

Following the police raid which swept out striking workers from the hospitals, the management of the Catholic Medical Centre, to which the St. Mary's Hospitals belong, have rejected all proposals by the union and the KCTU, and even independent facilitators, such as publicly renowned Catholic individuals, to resume dialogue to bring the dispute to a resolution.

The KCTU, having decided to take charge of the current dispute, began to organise KCTU-wide campaign.

As a part of the campaign to achieve a successful resolution of the dispute, the KCTU decided to a send a delegation to Vatican to appeal to the Pope to intercede in the dispute.

As a step in the supplication pilgrimage to Vatican, a KCTU delegation, led by Acting President Yoo Deuk-sang, on October 10, met with Archbishop Giovanni B. Morandini, the Apostolic Nuncio at the Holy See Embassy in Korea, to appeal for his intercession for amicable resolution of the dispute. Vatican's Ambassador to Korea gave a commitment to bring the Korean bishops or any persons in the Catholic Church in Korea or the management of the Catholic Medical Centre with authority to deal with the current dispute to meet with the union to start a process to bring the dispute to a resolution.

On the other hand, the Korean Health and Medical Workers Union is set to launch a general strike of all its members on October 16 to press the Catholic management to return to dialogue with a sincere will to bring the dispute to a resolution.

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<Related Site>
 Hospital Workers\' Sit-in at the Myongdong Cathedral

Industrial Dispute at Catholic Hospitals: \"Rule of Law\" or Respect for Workers\' Rights

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