[LETTERS to the editor]Tolerance for strikersHaving lived in France for several years, there was no way for me to escape being inconvenienced on countless occasions by strikes.
Strikes there are pretty much part of the daily routine, and so it was not rare to go to the subway stop in the morning and discover that the transport unions had decided to go on strike once again to fight for their “rights” and completely stopped the service.
Strikes are most effective when the regime they are fighting against is seriously affected financially, or when they can rally public opinion to their cause, so they are designed to draw attention.
French strikes, Korean strikes and strikes all over the world are therefore geared toward affecting people’s lives, because of which their opponents are forced to make concessions.
It is debatable whether or not strikes are justified, and with them the inconvenience and costs for large numbers of people and businesses.
Yet France is known to have a high tolerance for allowing people to go on strike.
My experiences in France, on the one hand, often made me angry at the people on strike, but on the other hand, I came to develop sympathy for people who are so desperate about their situation that they see no other way to resolve it but to go on strike and deny employers their work.
It is true that I have been inconvenienced as an outsider, but at the same time I was never hurt or significantly burdened by extra costs.
The parties who are really affected in strikes are not the general public but the employees and their employers. Striking employees simply stop working, block a street or two and shout a few slogans.
I therefore find it rather irritating that the Korean government gets involved in these essentially private issues so much. There is talk of strikers “taking the public hostage,” but is that really the case?
Is society so selfish that we cannot accept small personal inconveniences so that other people can get what they need?
The answer may be yes or no, and may depend on personal beliefs and circumstances but, in any case, strikers should not be treated like criminals just because they decided to deny work to their employers.
They may be denied their pay, but not their freedom to protest.
I say this because in a recent article on the truckers’ strike, the police were quoted as saying they deployed more than 300 officers to hinder “potential strikers” from rallying in the capital.
A person driving his car, or riding the train to come to Seoul with the intention of striking or demonstrating is free, like any other Korean citizen, and cannot be denied the freedom of movement guaranteed in Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Going on strike is not a crime, and allowing it is a sign of a strong democracy.
by Nils Schmidt
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