[EDITORIALS]Labor has rights, within lawTrade unions seemed to have embarked on their winter struggle, instead of their typical chuntu, a Japanese word that means a spring labor conflict. Last weekend, more than 40 labor organizations, including the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, one of two umbrella trade unions in Korea, and the Korean Farmers League, gathered in downtown Seoul and staged violent demonstrations. On Monday, the Korea Social Insurance Union Trade, a labor union of the National Health Insurance Corp., pledged a full-scale strike. Labor unions for state-run corporations, including railways, gas, regional heating and electricial utilities, declared that they would go on a joint strike if privatization-related bills were presented to the National Assembly.
The labor sector said it opposed the free trade agreement of the World Trade Organization, Korea's opening up the rice market and privatization of the state-run corporations, and demanded the introduction of the five-day workweek and securing of public interest in medical services. But these issues are all controversial ones. Labor criticized the WTO agreement as a new economic policy that poses a threat to the right to live, but the general trend is toward the opening of the rice market. The implementation of the five-day workweek is a complicated issue that offers no simple solutions. Each of those issues demands our concerted wisdom and effort; they cannot be solved with a showing off of power by the labor sector or by a violent demonstration.
It worries us that violent demonstrations are increasing. Approximately 100 rallies and demonstrations take place every day in downtown Seoul. Large demonstrations are concentrated on weekends, harming the business of retailers and causing serious traffic congestion. The right to fight for a laborer's rights is guaranteed by law, but activities to achieve it should not violate the rights of others. When an economy sours, the labor sector is the first to be hit, thus resistance by the labor sector is understandable. If we gather our wisdom together and work with one another, we can keep Korea buoyant. Otherwise, Korea will sink head first into a bottomless pit. We urge the labor sector to come up with wiser countermeasures.