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Why Korean Railway workers embarked upon a strike?

28th June 2003

Source  :  Korean Confederation of Trade Unions

Korean Railway Workers' Union has Embarked a Strike on 4:00 a.m., June 28!
The reason why rail workers has embarked upon a strike is that the government broke the agreement that was made between trade union and the government on April 20, 2003. The key points of the 4.20 Agreement are : "'reform of railway' should be propelled with full consultation and social agreement among social partners of interest including trade union", "the aims of 'reform of railway' are the development of railway industry, strengthening of public value, the progress of general services to ordinary people". Despite this trade union-government agreement, the Legislation & Judiciary Committee of the National Assembly passed the "law on the reform of railway construction" on 27th June without any social dialogue or agreement. This law denies the essence of the 4.20 Agreement as well as the public railway or people's railway which rail workers have argued. It merely encourages the privatisation of railway. That's why rail workers embarked upon the strike.

KCTU oppose strongly the "law on the reform of railway construction" not because we do not want the 'reform' of the Korean railway but the law never guarantee the public value of Korean railway. What is needed right now is the true reform programmes towards public and people's railway. In summary, rail workers are arguing the following three points concerning the true reform of railway.

Firstly, the government should undertake the whole expenditure for the construction of Korean High Speed Rail(KHSR) from the viewpoint of Public Service Obligation(PSO).
When the project of KHSR construction had been initiated originally, the government promised that it would bear the whole expenditure of construction. However, according to the law on the reform of railway construction which has been passed on June 27, the government denies its obligation and promise under the disguise of too-much-expenses. This means that the government allows private capital to intervene in the process of the construction of KHSR and manage it not based upon the principle of public value but one of profit. This results in corporatization of KHSR and the increase of ordinary people's fee-burden the same as the case of Seoul-Incheon International Airport Highway, CheonAhn-Nonsan Highway.

Secondly, We oppose the separation of management of the railway infrastructure from the operation of trains. Because it only results in more accidents and threatens the lives of passengers as well as rail workers. Moreover we have very specific reasons why the separation of management from the operation is not appropriate to Korea. They are : "the density of railroad is very high, the configuration of the earth is very difficult due to so many low and high mountains and the signal system of railway has not been modernised yet. Therefore remaking, maintenance and repair works which commit on the rail track should be combined with operation work sectors to be able to ensure the railway security. Rail workers want the "law on the reform of railway construction" to be able to guarantee the railway security system for citizens as well as workers.

Thirdly, We oppose another 'commercial' public corporation which is controlled by Government Investment Organisation Law. The law has enforced the public corporations to be run or managed by the principle of profit and market. Therefore Korean Railway Workers' Union(KRWU) considers the government's initiative of "Public-Corporatization" of Korean National Railroad as the foundation of another "Commercial-oriented and Bureaucratic Public Corporation". Alternatively, KRWU has argued the Korean Railroad Special Public Corporation(Authority system) through the enactment of Special Law which guarantee public value of railway. KRWU believes that this is the best way to implement true 'reform' of railway construction in Korea.

Our Demands

- Keep the Agreement between trade union and the government on 20th April!
- Stop the enactment of the unilateral "law on the reform of railway construction" without any social consultation and agreement!
- Strengthen the public value of railway!
- Stop the privatisation process of the whole public sectors!

Korean Confederation of Trade Unions(KCTU)

5fl. Daeyoung Bldg. 139 Youngdeungpo-2-Ga
Youngdeungpo-Ku, Seoul 150-982 Korea
Tel: ++82 2 2636-0165
Fax: ++82 2 2635-1134
Web-site :

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