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Roh says strikers not off law hook

June 25,2003
Doing little to dispel the impression of a confused administration in the face of union activism, the government reacted to a walkout by subway workers in Busan and Incheon yesterday. President Roh and his prime minister talked tough, but another key minister sounded conciliatory.
President Roh also seemed to call yesterday for prosecution of the Chohung Bank union leaders who led the union on a five-day strike last week. At a cabinet meeting yesterday, he said, “The Chohung Bank strike is over, but we will use the law to deal with those who led the illegal strike.” He added, apparently speaking of the subway walkout, “It is not intervention when the government comes forward to control and mediate a strike.”
Yoon Tai-young, the Blue House spokesman, added later, “Dispatching force is not the only way to play by the rules. Taking legal action against those who instigated illegal acts is also playing by the rules and applying the law.”
As they ended the bank strike Sunday, Chohung Bank and its buyer, Shinhan Financial Group, agreed to go lightly on the strike leaders.
Prime Minister Goh Kun reaffirmed Mr. Roh’s stance in a separate news conference yesterday. “We will ask legal accountability for those who led the strike.” Mr. Goh said. “While we will refrain from dispatching police force, we will exercise government authority.” The prime minister reminded reporters that the leaders of the independent truckers strike faced legal action.
Addressing the strike by municipal subway workers in Busan and Incheon, Mr. Roh said ominously, “Prepare for a possible nation-wide traffic crisis.” He added, “The subway workers are local government employees, but it is desirable that the Labor Ministry take charge of mediation efforts.”
Although Choi Jong-chan, the transportation minister, said yesterday the Supreme Court had already ruled that labor’s demands that two drivers staff subway trains and that the subway systems not be privatized are not legal grounds for a strike. But the labor minister, Kwon Ki-hong, said the strike was illegal because his ministry is still trying to mediate. He added pointedly, “Going by the Labor Ministry’s past practice, striking to demand improvements in systems such as the one-driver-per-train rule has not been categorized as illegal.”


by Choi Hoon


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