KCTU General Strike – Down With Yoon Suk-Yeol’s Government
The KCTU began a general strike Monday based on the slogan, “Down with Yoon Suk-yeol’s government.” It will last until July 15.
During the two weeks, the umbrella labor group plans to hold evening candlelight rallies nationwide. The KCTU will call for an end to the government’s pro-chaebol and anti-labor policies.
KCTU, the main umbrella labor union in Korea, launched a general strike Monday. They are presenting the end of union suppression, passing the Yellow Envelope Act, and raising the minimum wage as their main demands. They also demand the end of dumping radioactive water in the ocean by Japan and guaranteeing freedom of assembly and demonstration. A number of industry unions are expected to join the strike including the metal union with Hyundai Motor, the parcel service and home appliance repair workers’ unions, and the medical workers’ union.
During the two weeks of the strike, KCTU will hold evening candlelight rallies nationwide to call for the ousting of the Yoon Suk-yeol administration. KCTU is accusing the administration of ruining people’s livelihoods, democracy and peace. The demands of the unions are highly political and do not represent the interests of low-income people. In addition, a large number of people have incurred heavy debt because of the high cost of living and interest rates.
The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), South Korea’s largest umbrella labor group, began two weeks of strikes Monday. The strikes, which drew more than 200,000 members, are in protest of the government’s proposed labor reforms and as a pushback against perceived anti-union policies.
The KCTU has a long history of organizing mass demonstrations and street pickets, and it played a critical role in the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye. Hundreds of thousands of workers joined protest rallies and street pickets to demand the resignation of Park, who was accused of corruption and treason for her role in the 2014 Candlelight Revolution.
The KCTU has a reputation for militant organizing and is intransigent in the face of state repression. KCTU President Yang Kyung-soo and 30 other union organizers were jailed for violating COVID-19 protocols when they called on their members to gather at Gwanghwamun Square in Seoul. They expect more arrests during the strike. The KCTU also demands the repeal of the National Security Law, rightful reparations from Japanese companies for forced labor during colonial rule and nationalization of energy companies for energy price control.
The KCTU strike of December 28 gained huge support across South Korea. In contrast to the general strike in 1987, which was a struggle for national independence, this one was directed against the Park government and its anti-union policies. The KCTU and its locals organized rallies and work stoppages in major cities. The Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU), the country’s largest and legal union federation, called a limited strike of its 1.2 million members to add strength to the KCTU action.
The government urged the KCTU to cancel its planned general strike and warned that it would take stern measures against illegal actions. It has also threatened to close schools and public services if the KCTU does not comply with its Covid-19 response plan, including enforcing a ban on face masks. It is essential that workers build a powerful mass strike and counterattack to defeat the Park government’s desperate maneuvers. They can do so by mobilizing their anger at the bureaucratized leaders of the KCTU and building active rank-and-file committees.
The KCTU’s strike, which was supported by workers nationwide, is an important step in countering the COVID-19 panic and exposing the real nature of capitalism. It is vital that workers in the United States support it with action and solidarity.
The government’s counterattack has been brutal, with police repressing the KCTU and affiliated unions. On January 18, the National Intelligence Service raided KCTU offices and those of KHMU, an affiliate of the KTCU, using the authoritarian Cold War-era National Security Law.
Riot police sledgehammered through the doors of the union’s headquarters, conducting a 10-hour search based on flimsy intelligence. Union leaders were forced to seek sanctuary in a Buddhist temple, where donations poured in. This is the 13th time that a KCTU president has been jailed since the federation was unbanned in 1997. The KCTU is intransigent in the face of government repression and calls for an all-people’s mobilization in January 2022 that reaches to South Korea’s urban poor and farmers.