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Unions above the law (KOR)

June 26,2019
The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) vowed to launch anti-government strikes next month following the detention of its chair Kim Myeong-hwan. The militant umbrella union will hold a massive rally — as part of a general strike — in front of the Blue House on July 3 to show “who’s the real owner of society” and a nationwide rally on July 18 against the Moon Jae-in administration for its “oppressive labor policy.” The KCTU has already warned of a violent rally “to make them pay for hurting the KCTU” before Kim’s arrest.

The Seoul Southern District Court issued a detention order for Kim because it identified him as the orchestrator of the four series of unauthorized rallies in front of the National Assembly complex. Union members assaulted police officers, broke facilities and tried to break in to the National Assembly premise. Six executives of the KCTU have been investigated for their role in violent protests against labor related bills in March and April. Half of them face a trial under physical detention. The court could not pardon Kim under the same charge. If the KCTU has any complaint about the detention order, it should take appropriate legal measures to appeal.

Law enforcement has become stricter, even to the extent that two former presidents and a chief justice were put behind bars. The KCTU seems to believe that it is above the law as it chooses a walkout and strike instead of taking legal procedures. The union accused the Moon administration of abandoning its campaign promises to address poor work conditions in Korea and leaning towards chaebols to oppress the union.

But that is just an excuse. The minimum wage has gone up by nearly 30 percent over the last two years and the workweek hours have been universally cut to 52, which led to domino bankruptcies of self-employed businesses. The union has been a repeatedly reminding the government of its role in helping liberal figures get elected in the presidential election. The country will fall under union dictatorship if it succumbs to every one of its demands.

The ruling camp must take responsibility for the current crisis. The government has complied with almost all of the KCTU’s demands. It also condoned its violent rallies. The government must restore law and order. The KCTU will lose public confidence entirely if it pushes ahead with the strike plan without a logical cause.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 25, Page 30