North union bosses’ visit undeterred

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North union bosses’ visit undeterred

North Korean labor union bosses will visit Seoul this month for a joint North-South celebration of Labor Day, but the government is against the idea.

Up to 100 senior-level personnel from North Korea’s umbrella labor union, the General Federation of Trade Unions of Korea (GFTUK), are to visit Seoul from April 30 to May 2 for the festivities with the South’s two major umbrella labor unions, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) and the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU), according to the South Korean unions yesterday. Last week, two members of the KCTU and three from the FKTU met with their North Korean counterparts in Kaeseong to discuss preparations for the event, which was planned last month in Shenyang, China.

On this visit, the GFTUK reportedly plans to send its vice chairman, Hong Gwang-hyo, as head of the delegation, along with other high-ranking personnel, on an Air Koryo flight to Gimpo International Airport.

In a joint release yesterday, the unions of the South and North stated, “We object to any action which implants distrust and causes disputes between people of the same race.”

Late last month, the Unification Ministry wrote a formal letter to the KCTU and FKTU stating that holding a large-scale joint celebration with the North cannot be allowed due to tension following the sinking of the Cheonan ship and disagreements over investments in Mount Kumgang.

In response, FKTU head of public relations Yang Jeong-ju said, “We are only carrying out what was agreed to early last month in Shenyang, China.” He added that since this year is the 120th anniversary of Labor Day, it will be more meaningful for a joint celebration, but considering circumstances, the event will be smaller than usual.

A government official responded, “As we have told the two umbrella unions that it will be difficult to open such a ceremony, we have no plans to repeat what we said.”

By Cho Jae-eun, Kim Ki-chan []
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