Hanjin chairman draws ire of ruling and liberal parties

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Hanjin chairman draws ire of ruling and liberal parties

Criticism of the chairman of Hanjin Heavy Industries, Cho Nam-ho, reached new heights from both ruling and opposition parties as labor activists announced plans for a fourth “Bus for Hope” rally, this time in Seoul.

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions said yesterday that it is reviewing plans with organizers of the Bus for Hope rallies to stage a massive joint demonstration in central Seoul on Aug. 20 and 21.

“About 800 have joined our hunger strike for hope, and another 15,000 have joined the third Bus for Hope rally [in Busan],” KCTU head Kim Yeong-hun said in a statement. “Let the KCTU fuel the seeds of fire planted by the Bus for Hope.”

The Bus for Hope rallies, in support of the ongoing labor protest at Hanjin’s shipyard in Busan, have made national headlines in recent weeks.

Both ruling and opposition parties have criticized Hanjin Heavy Industries for being indifferent to the crisis. Conspicuously missing from the months of dispute has been Hanjin’s chairman, with politicians demanding that he resolve the ongoing labor crisis that was triggered by massive layoffs at the shipyard in December.

Shortly after the National Assembly summoned Cho to testify at a hearing, he left the country on June 17.

At the time, Cho said he was going to Japan and Europe on business until July 2 but has yet to return to the country.

“The company said Cho is staying overseas to win shipbuilding orders, but I cannot believe this,” Lee Ju-young, chief policy maker of the Grand National Party, told the JoongAng Ilbo.

Kim Hyong-o, former National Assembly speaker and a GNP lawmaker representing Busan’s Yeongdo District, also criticized Cho.

Hanjin’s shipyard in Yeongdo has been the venue for the months-long crane tower protest by Kim Jin-suk, a former Hanjin employee and a KCTU member, as well as the previous three Bus for Hope rallies.

“If Cho wanted to fire 400 employees, he should have met with the labor union and sought their understanding, rather than just insisting that he had done everything by the law,” said Representative Kim. “It would have been natural for Cho to present alternatives, but because of Cho’s behavior, public sentiment toward tycoons is worsening.”

The liberal opposition Democratic Party also condemned Cho. “The people’s patience toward Cho is running out,” said Sohn Hak-kyu, chairman of the DP, threatening a special National Assembly investigation on the businessman’s suspected corruption including tax evasion.

Other DP members also urged President Lee Myung-bak to take the matter into his own hands to resolve the dispute.

“The time has come for the president to act,” said Representative Chung Dong-young of the DP. “The Hanjin Heavy Industries crisis is as serious as the Japanese lawmakers’ attempt to visit Ulleung Island.”

Another DP leader, Chung Sye-kyun, said Lee and his administration should have a more responsible attitude and mediate the matter.

By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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