KCTU stands firm on plans to hold mass Dec. 5 rally

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KCTU stands firm on plans to hold mass Dec. 5 rally

One of Korea's two largest umbrella labor unions pledged Sunday to push ahead with organizing another massive rally on Dec. 5, projecting that some hundreds of thousands of protesters nationwide would convene in Seoul for the anti-government movement.

The latest announcement came a day after local police dismissed a request made by a major farmers’ group, the Korean Peasants League, to hold a rally that day in Seoul Plaza, located in Jung District, central Seoul.

Some 10,000 members from various labor groups are apparently planning to march in support of a farmer critically injured by a water canon during the groups’ previous rally on Nov. 14, and denounce authorities for suppressing them with “deadly” weapons.

The upcoming demonstration also aims to persuade the government to refrain from carrying out labor reforms the group claims are detrimental to blue-collar and temporary workers.

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), which organized the Nov. 14 rally and is expected to play a key role in the Dec. 5 demonstration, said in a statement Sunday that the government was “dictatorial” to ban the convention and that it went against the right to freedom of assembly.

The KCTU further vowed to make the rally as “large as possible” and said its members would go on a general strike if the government went ahead with making formal guidelines for the labor reform.

Labor unions have lashed out at authorities for attempting to legalize the peak wage system, which gradually cuts wages for senior workers a few years before retirement, and permit employers to legally dismiss workers deemed to be under-performing.

Unions, employers and the government agreed in talks earlier this year to set guidelines governing dismissal and salary issues, a non-biding rule urged by the government for both unions and employers.

Citing a domestic clause that gives authorities the right to disapprove a rally that can potentially harm public safety, police said Saturday that the Korean Peasants League, which planned to organize the Dec. 5 rally, was responsible for turning the Nov. 14 protests violent.

Police said anyone who convenes that day despite their order to disperse will be penalized, and that organizers will be held legally responsible.

On Nov. 14, approximately 68,000 people from 53 left-wing labor groups and organizations gathered in downtown Seoul to demand the government reform the labor market in favor of blue-collar and temporary workers, retract plans for state-authored history textbooks, ban rice imports and crack down on Korean conglomerates, among others.

One of the most violent moments came when Baek Nam-gi, a 68-year-old farmer from Boseong County, South Jeolla, was knocked down by a water canon and collapsed, losing consciousness before being taken to Seoul National University Hospital for a brain hemorrhage.

Baek has yet to regain consciousness after surgery.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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