Government workers hold nation-wide rally for labor rights
Over 150 KGEU members and their supporters gathered in front of Seoul Station, donning red headbands with the words, "3 Labor Rights."
Source :  Base21
by Terry Park/Base21 Media Activist
Seoul, Korea--The Korean Government Employees Union launched a nation-wide rally in 14 cities on Saturday to protest the government's continuing refusal to grant basic labor rights to its own workers. Over 150 KGEU members and their supporters gathered in front of Seoul Station, donning red headbands with the words, "3 Labor Rights." This is part of an overall strategy developed at the 3rd National Congress last month to gain momentum for a mass rally and strike in Seoul on November 4th and 5th.
According to Professor Joong-Kee Rho of Hanshin University, the KGEU's main demands are official acceptance of its union by the South Korean government, collective bargaining in order to improve working conditions, and legalization of labor actions, including strikes. The Kim Dae-Jung administration has so far conceded only to the first demand, but according to Rho, they will only recognize them as a "union," not a "labor union," an important distinction. "Under Korean law, a labor union can legally perform a variety of actions, but if they are just a union, they are more limited, more bound to their employer."
Professor Rho is also the Secretary General of the Korean Professors Union, another outlawed union standing in solidarity with the government workers. Two women from the People's Solidarity for Social Progress were also lending their support.
Rho stated that 70,000 government workers have joined the KGEU since its inception last March, or 15% of all government employees. They are mostly office workers and assistants for city and district organs. "The Korean government is generally oppressive when it comes to labor unions, but particularly with government workers because of their close proximity to the core of state power."
In a strange scene, an elderly Christrian group suddenly appeared and held a brief counter-protest. According to Mi-Kyung Ryu of PSSP, they considered the workers to be "anti-Jesus."
KGEU president Cha Bong-Chung continues to be detained along with six other members who occupied the office of the Minister of Government Administration and Home Affairs on October 7th. President Cha was arrested on October 3rd after hiding out in Myongdong Cathedral since the establishment of the KGEU.
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