Democracy on Trial: South Korean Workers Resist Labor Law Deform

By Ou, C. Jay | Multinational Monitor, March 1997 | Go to article overview

Democracy on Trial: South Korean Workers Resist Labor Law Deform


Ou, C. Jay, Multinational Monitor


SEOUL, South Korea - Ushering in the new year with a bang, television screens worldwide delivered familiar images of demonstrators taking to the streets of South Korea's major cities and industrial zones. Workers and students were seen rallying and battling riot police, while government officials scrambled to mitigate damage to the national economy brought about by a series of nationwide strikes.

Fearless resistance went up against heavy-handed government tactics. Chung Jae Sung, a worker for the South Korean automobile manufacturer Hyundai Motors, engaged in the act of self-immolation to express outrage at the government.

At issue in this peninsular nation of some 35 million people are labor laws that threaten to further undermine labor standards and protections for workers, as well as a national security law that would return domestic intelligence capacities to the National Security Planning Agency (NSP), formerly the South Korean CIA. Hanging in the balance is South Korea's reputation as a newly democratic and developed nation - most recently confirmed by its entry to the "rich nations' club," the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

General strike!

In a brazen, stealth maneuver, at 6 a.m. on December 26, President Kim Young Sam's ruling New Korea Party (NKP) passed 11 amendments to controversial laws dealing with labor and the NSP in six minutes - without the participation of opposition legislators. The new laws would severely curtail workers' rights - by enhancing employer power to fire workers, giving employers the right to fire strikers and maintaining a de facto ban on trade union political activity, among other provisions - and return domestic investigation capacities to the NSP. The main opposition National Congress for New Politics (NCNP) and the second largest opposition United Liberal Democrats (ULD) declared the laws null and void and demanded a meeting with President Kim to protest the illegal procedure.

That morning, the leadership of the illegal Korea Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), the second largest group of trade unions in South Korea with approximately 500,000 members and 930 member unions, called for immediate nationwide strikes to protest what they criticized as the "railroading of the labor and national security laws."

In the following weeks, KCTU and affiliated unions intensified the pressure on the government to nullify the laws through nationwide protests, strikes, rallies and various campaigns. The first phase of the general strikes from December 26 to January 3 included the participation of hundreds of unions and close to 400,000 unionists, mostly in the heavy industry sectors of automobile manufacturing and shipbuilding, and also including machinery, petrochemicals, hospitals and transportation. Hundreds of factories were forced to close and suspend production.

The KCTU called for immediate nullification of the laws, an apology from the president, and the resignation of President Kim's cabinet and all those involved in the passage of the bills, including Prime Minister Lee Soo Sung and ruling NKP chair Lee Hong Koo.

"President Kim Young Sam should apologize to 12 million workers," KCTU President Kwon Yong Gil thundered to a crowd of 25,000 workers from around the country on the fifth day of the strikes. "Unless the unilaterally railroaded labor laws and National Security Planning Agency Act are repealed, the second stage of the general strike will be launched right after the New Year's holiday."

The second phase commenced on January 3, when the 1.2 million-member Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU) joined the KCTU-led strike coordinating organization, the National Council for the Preservation of Democracy and Revocation of Labor Laws (NCPD). The ongoing general strikes were joined by workers from white collar and public sectors, including clerical, insurance, university, communication and transit workers. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Democracy on Trial: South Korean Workers Resist Labor Law Deform
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.