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SF Solidarity Rally Speak Out For Korean Workers And People

Wednesday, November 30, 2016
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
Event Type:
United Public Workers For Action
Location Details:
Korean Consulate
3500 Clay St./Laurel
San Francisco

11/30 SF Solidarity Rally Speak Out For Korean Workers And People

Join the solidarity rally for striking Korean KCTU workers and Korean people. The railway workers are being joined by hundreds of thousands of workers on a general strike against the anti-labor reactionary Park Geun-hye government. The government has been paid off by the Choebels to deregulate labor and destroy worker rights. There is also a major corruption crisis not only involving the government but Samsung, Hyundai but many other companies. President Park Geun-hye has also stopped public school teachers from unionizing and sought to bust their union and well as other public worker unions throughout the country. Millions have already rallied to demand her resignation and now is the time to join with Korean unions and working people in supporting their struggle for labor, justice and human rights.
Korean Consulate Rally and Speak Out In Support Of Korean Workers And People

Wednesday November 30, 2016 12:00 noon
3500 Clay St./Laurel
San Francisco

Initial Sponsor
United Public Workers For Action
Jack Heyman, President of Transport Workers Solidarity Committee
Roger Scott, AFT 2121 CCSF Delegate To SF Labor Council

WW11-22- 16 Korea General Strike, Labor Elections and IBT and Muslim Registration

11/30 International Day Of Action To Support the Korea general strike for workers’ rights! Protest At All Korean Embassies and Consulates-General Strike Called For Nov 30
Support the Korea general strike for workers’ rights!

Struggling against the government’s attacks on labour rights, unions in South Korean are holding a general strike for workers’ rights on 30 November. IndustriALL is calling for global days of action to support the unions’ fight.

Korean unions are struggling against a government crackdown on labour rights. The administration of South Korean President Park oversaw police raids of trade unions’ offices and the arrest of hundreds of peaceful trade unionists.

Park has attempted to make changes to Korean labour law that include permitting firing without due process, cutting wages for senior employees and allowing more outsourcing.

The Park government has been implicated in a scandal in which major Korean corporations paid bribes to foundations controlled by an ally of Park in exchange for support for anti-labour policies and other favors.

As part of an ongoing fight back that recently included one million Koreans marching through Seoul, Korean unions have called a general strike for 30 November.

Join in the global days of action to support the Korean unions between now and 30 November by:

• Sending a protest letter. Put it on your union’s letterhead, insert your union’s name in the first sentence, add a signature and send it to the email addresses listed at the top of the letter.

• Taking selfies with the solidarity sign (links to the right) and post them online with hashtag #KoreaGeneralStrike and send them to press [at] to share.

• Holding an action at a Korean embassy or consulate or at a location of one of the anti-labour, corrupt Korean corporations such as Hyundai, LG, Posco or Samsung. You could deliver a protest letter to the embassy, consulate or management. Make sure to send pics or video of the action to press [at] to share.
IndustriALL Global Union general secretary Valter Sanches, who recently visited Korea on a solidarity mission, says:

I urge you to support this general strike by participating in the global days of action and show the Korean government the strength of global solidarity.

In Korea Up to 1 million rally to demand Park’s ouster
Published : 2016-11-12 23:14
Updated : 2016-11-13 02:01
In the largest anti-government rally in decades, up to 1 million South Koreans took to the streets in central Seoul on Saturday, demanding President Park Geun-hye’s resignation over a scandal involving her longtime confidante Choi Soon-sil.

From City Hall through Gwanghwamun Square to Anguk station, protestors packed the boulevards just hundreds of meters from Park’s presidential residence of Cheong Wa Dae, turning the area into a vast sea of candlelight in the evening.

Organizers said over 1 million gathered for the protest. The police estimate was 260,000.

It was the largest rally held in South Korea since the democratic uprising in June 1987, showing continuing public rage toward President Park suspected of letting her civilian friend meddle in state affairs and playing a part in extorting donations from local firms.

Some thousands of protestors hold up signs demanding for President Park Geun-hye's resignation in Seoul Square in front of Seoul's Cityhall on Saturday. (Jo He-rim/The Korea Herald)

As of 11 p.m., thousands of protestors were still peacefully marching near Gyeongbok Palace, some 800 meters away from the presidential office, chanting “Park Geun-hye, step down!” and holding candles. Musical performances continued into the early hours on Sunday in Gwanghwamun Square.

The protest was staged in a peaceful manner despite the record high number of participants, with no major injuries or clashes reported.

Though organized by a union of some 1,500 civic groups and labor unions, the rally drew unaffiliated citizens of all ages who came with their friends and families.

Scores of protestors told The Korea Herald that they felt angry about an unelected civilian, Park’s friend Choi, “running the country behind the scenes” and that joining the rally was the least they could do to salvage the country’s democracy.

Choi Myung-ok, 44, said that she felt proud to be part of such a historic moment.

“This government has made fools of Korean citizens. We have put up with the government failing to deal with the Sewol ferry disaster, but this time I had enough of President Park Geun-hye,” said Choi, who came to the scene with her family. “I cannot feel helpless anymore. It is a chance to learn that we should better oversee those in power.”

Protestors color in a poster reading, "Democracy" in Gwanghwamun Square, central Seoul on Saturday. (Ock Hyun-ju/The Korea Herald)
Yoon Song-yi, 37, who brought her 6-year-old child, said that she wanted to teach her child what democracy was.

“When my child asked me who this country’s owner was, I wanted to teach her it was us, Koreans, not a handful of powerful people,” she said. “I was not interested in politics before, but I had to come because I want my child to live in a better society.”

Kim Beom-geun, 18, was one of the many teenagers in school uniform who traveled for hours to Seoul on a chartered bus to join the rally.

“I will be eligible to vote in a couple of years. I came here to watch and learn so that I will not make such mistakes in the future,” said Kim, who came from Yeongju, North Gyeongsang Province. “Hearing all these people shouting in one voice, I feel my mind filling up.”

A 69-year-old man, who wanted to be identified only by his surname Kim, said, “I gave her a vote because I trusted her. How can she betray us like this?

“Why only powerless people should abide by law when all the powerful people break the law?”

Tens of thousands of rally-goers hold candles in Gwanghwamun Square, central Seoul on Saturday. (Yonhap)

Three opposition parties joined the rally, along with many of their presidential hopefuls.

Among them were Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party of Korea, Ahn Cheol-soo of the People’s Party and Park Won-soon, the Seoul mayor.

“Some worry if the president steps down, there will be chaos. But the fact that she stays in her position is only making the situation worse. I demand for her to resign,” said Ahn during the rally.

Moon, former chairman of the Democratic Party, said the president had already been impeached by public sentiment, if not yet by law.

“I ask President Park to sincerely hear out the voices of thousands of people holding candles here and answer them,” he said. “If Park has any patriotism left in her, and if she still cares about the nation, she should react to heed public’s call.”

The event kicked off at 4 p.m. following a string of separate demonstrations across Seoul. The protestors’ march was peaceful and cheerful, with participants making speeches on stage and celebrities performing in front of the crowds.

A woman dressed as Choi Soon-sil pose for picture at the rally scene in Gwanghwamun Square, central Seoul on Saturday. (Ock Hyun-ju/The Korea Herald)

“It is so fun and peaceful. I am learning again that this is democracy,” said Kang Soon-ja, a woman in her late 50s, after taking a photo with an artist dressed up as Choi Soon-sil at Gwanghwamun Square.

Various groups came out to voice their opposition to a series of policies of the Park administration, including labor market reforms, deployment of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system and the reinstatement of state-authored history textbooks.

In several locations, right-wing civic groups and Park’s supporters held counter rallies to condemn anti-Park protestors for “plunging the country into chaos.” Calling them “North Korean sympathizers, they argued that Park’s presidency should be protected.

It was the first time that all major roads connected to central Seoul had been made open to the protestors. The police earlier imposed partial bans on several planned marches, citing traffic disruption, but the decisions were reversed by the court.

“Allowing assemblies demanding Park Geun-hye’s resignation to be held near the presidential office is a way to prove South Korea is a democratic country,” the court said in the ruling.

A series of massive anti-government rallies held last year spiraled into violence as police sought to fight off protestors with water cannons. Baek Nam-gi, 69-year-old activist farmer, died after a direct hit from a water cannon left him in a coma. This time, there were no major clashes.

Police buses stationed in front of Gwanghwamun in central Seoul, Saturday. (Ock Hyun-ju/The Korea Herald)

Police dispatched some 25,000 officers in central Seoul to keep public order. They built barricades with police buses to surround Gyeongbok Palace in an attempt to block protestors from marching on the presidential office.

Despite Park’s two televised apologies over the scandal, personnel reshuffle in her Cabinet and proposal to relinquish some of her executive powers, South Koreans’ calls for Park’s resignation show no signs of abating.

The scandal centers on Park’s longtime friend Choi Soon-sil, who holds no government post and is accused of meddling in state affairs and personnel appointments behind the scenes.

Choi and Park’s former presidential aides are suspected of using their ties with the president to force donations from conglomerates to the Mir and K-Sports foundations which Choi allegedly set up and run for her private use.

A series of revelations increasingly implicate park in the fundraising activities. Park apologized for allowing her guard to drop with Choi Soon-sil, but distanced herself from Choi’s alleged influence-peddling and embezzlement of public funds for personal gain.

Park’s approval rating has remained at a record-low of 5 percent, setting an all-time low for any sitting South Korean president.

By Ock Hyun-ju and Jo He-rim (laeticia.ock [at] (herim [at]

Korean Workers Launch Major Wave of Strikes, Winning International Support
MONDAY, OCT 17, 2016, 1:13 PM · EDIT
Korean Workers Launch Major Wave of Strikes, Winning International Support

The strikes pose one of the biggest crises in South Korean labor since the 1980s, when workers seized on the country's democratization to create one of Asia's most dynamic labor movements. (Photo Credit: Korean Public Service and Transport Workers' Union)

Over the past few weeks, thousands of South Korean transport workers have gone on strike to protest against government “reform” proposals that would make it easier for employers to fire workers, weaken seniority protections won through collective bargaining and privatize some state-owned industries.

The strikes, and the South Korean government’s fierce crackdown on labor, have generated an unprecedented response from global unions over what they see as clear-cut violations of workers’ rights to freedom of association.

“This has become a challenge to the whole international community and is enormously damaging to the Korean government’s international reputation,” Stephen Cotton, general secretary of the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF), told In These Times.

In Washington, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is having “frequent meetings” with South Korea’s ambassador to discuss his concerns over the situation in Korea, said Cathy Feingold, the federation’s top foreign affairs officer. “We’re very involved.”

The U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, which includes a clause designed to protect labor rights, “is another hook” U.S. unions might use to assist their Korean allies, Feingold said. The protections in that pact, including freedom of association, can be enforced through trade sanctions and fines, but are rarely used.

The strikes pose one of the biggest crises in South Korean labor since the 1980s, when workers seized on the country's democratization to create one of Asia's most dynamic labor movements. In the aftermath of the democratic revolution in 1987, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) was born out of independent organizing efforts that had been stifled for years in heavy industry, automobiles, transportation and shipbuilding. It is now the second largest union federation in the country.

The latest actions began on October 10, when more than 7,000 owner-operators in trucking joined a national strike against the government’s plan for deregulation of the trucking transport market. The conservative government of President Park Geun-hye responded by declaring the strike illegal, and her transportation minister called the walkout “an act of betrayal” of the nation.

On day one of the strike, more than 4,000 riot police surrounded truckers massed in front of freight depots, including the “New Port” complex in the southern industrial city of Busan, the truckers’ union said. Fifty-five activists were arrested and five injured, the union added. The Yonhap news agency reported that the South Korean military mobilized soldiers to replace striking truck drivers, effectively transforming them into scabs.

The strikers belong to the “Cargo Truckers Solidarity Division” of the Korean Public Service and Transport Workers’ Union (KPTU) known as TruckSol. Wol-san Liem, the KPTU’s director of international and Korean Peninsula affairs, said that the government responded like it did because of the truckers’ “potential power” as well as their “precarious status as independent contractors.” The truckers’ union is part of the larger KCTU.

Working conditions for Korean truck drivers are dismal.

“They face unreasonable schedules, long hours, multiple levels of subcontracting, and low rates that put them in a really difficult place,” Liem said. “The pressures force them to speed, overload and drive at night for long hours—disastrous to health and family life and also dangerous to other road users.”

She added that problems are compounded because drivers who own their trucks are treated as independent contractors and denied the rights to form and join unions, collectively bargain and strike.

“This means they don’t have legal trade union rights,” Liem said. While it’s not illegal for owner-operators to “collectively refuse to work,” she added, “the government and conservative media try to paint the strike as illegal and our members as a violent mob.”

The truckers’ strike is the latest event in an autumn of industrial actions launched by Korean unions. In late September, other KPTU transport affiliates began a general strike against the government's imposition of performance-related pay and a termination system. Those actions will supposedly align the Korean economy with international practices but in fact provide tools for employers to easily get rid of excess and militant workers.

One of KPTU’s affiliates, the Korean Railway Workers’ Union, has been particularly active in that strike because the government's privatization plans include turning over the country's national rail system to conglomerates called chaebol that already dominate the economy. Rail and subway workers also oppose the imposition of the new merit-based salary systemthat would make it easier for employers to fire workers who don’t meet certain quotas.

During the rail strike, the KPTU’s Liem said, 165 union officers were suspended from their jobs. Worse, employers filed a lawsuit seeking damages of 165 billion won (about $145 million) from the union and charged 19 union officers with “obstruction,” she said.

Strikes have also taken place in the financial and automobile industries. This month, the union representing workers at Hyundai Motor Company, one of the world’s largest car producers, resumed talks with management “after months of strikes in the automaker’s worst-ever industrial dispute,” the Reuters news agency reported (The talks concluded last week, when 63 percent of Hyundai’s workers voted to accept a new contract).

There was no let-up in transportation strikes, however. Despite the government’s attempt to play down their impact, the Korean Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said on October 10 that more than 40 percent of the roughly 18,000 unionized workers on railroads and subways were taking part in the strike.

“Since the start of the walkout by railway workers, the operation of cargo trains has been reduced to nearly half of the usual level, forcing local firms to depend on cargo trucks to haul their export and import shipments to and from the country's major seaports,” reported Yonhap, which is owned by the government.

Meanwhile, the ITF and Public Services International (PSI), the global federation of public sector workers, have asked the International Labor Organization (ILO) to intervene to ensure that the Park government respects the rights of workers in South Korea to freedom of association.

The strikes in South Korea, the ITF’s Cotton said in an email, “have been triggered by the government ignoring its own laws by imposing drastic new labour practices in the public sector. It is no secret that this is a precursor to the introduction of widespread privatization.” Yet, despite labor’s objections, “every attempt by the unions to seek talks with the government has been rejected.”

Global unions and human rights groups have been particularly angered by the imprisonment of labor leaders in South Korea, including Han Sang-gyun, the president of the KCTU. He was sentenced in July to five years in jail after he was convicted on charges of organizing a massive rally in Seoul last November that was declared illegal by the government.

During that demonstration, an activist, Baek Nam-gi, was knocked to the ground by police water cannons and suffered serious brain injury. His death on September 25—and a stand-off with the government over its attempt to seize Baek’s body for an autopsy—has sparked demonstrations and vigils all over the country, and has become a national symbol of the struggle against authoritarian rule and repression.

The ITF and PSI raised the arrests of Han and other union leaders in a joint letter to the ILO in September. “The alarming use of arbitrary detention and judicial harassment against (Korean) trade unionists for organizing and participating in public rallies is a major concern,” the unions wrote in a letter signed by Cotton and PSI General Secretary Rosa Pavanelli. “The ITF and the international union movement will never accept the imprisonment of trade union leaders for legitimate trade union activities,” Cotton added in his email.

The AFL-CIO spoke out in June when it issued a statement in support of the KCTU’s Han. And, in a gesture of solidarity this week, the federation has invited KCTU officials to New York to speak at the United Nations on a recent special rapporteur’s report on freedom of association, the AFL-CIO’s Feingold said. That report, issued in January, criticized “a gradual regression on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly.”

On October 12, as the truckers’ strike heated up in Korea, unions from around the world joined in a global day of solidarity with TruckSol and the Korean strikers. In San Francisco, a protest at the South Korean Consulate was led by United Public Workers for Action, a coalition that seeks to unite workers in the public sector. The campaign can be followed on Twitter at hashtag #KoreanStrikeforJustice.

The global labor movement, the ITF’s Cotton said, will “continue to give every support to workers in South Korea until the government starts to respect international law and enters meaningful negotiations with the unions.”
Added to the calendar on Tue, Nov 29, 2016 3:20PM
§Korea Sewol Father on the Ground
by United Public Workers For Action
As a result of deregulation and union busting the Sewol Ferry sunk with the loss of hundreds of children and the government has attacked the families and refused to make a proper and independent investigation.
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