Unions in control

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Unions in control

The elected government has become submissive to labor forces representing a select union group.

Busan Mayor Oh Keo-don handed over a statue recalling labor exploitation by Japan during the colonial days, that was removed from a sidewalk near the Japanese Consulate in Busan, to the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU). He also agreed with Kim Jae-ha, the head of the KCTU Busan faction, to announce a permanent location for the statue before the May 1 Labor Day holiday.

He was more or less surrendering his authority as governor.

Under the agreement, the location will be decided by 100 people representing Busan citizens. The members will be chosen by a group led by the KCTU and a local council where the ruling party forms a majority. The statue is most likely headed to the sidewalk facing the Japanese Consulate and will cause more diplomatic strife with Japan.

Under the Vienna Convention of Diplomatic Relations, which Seoul has signed, Korea cannot install statues symbolizing forced labor and sexual slavery in front of foreign missions. The U.S. government has repeatedly expressed concern about the installation of the statue remembering forced labor to the Seoul and Busan governments as well as to the local council.

The prime minister as well as other cabinet ministers also informed the Busan city administration of the government’s opposition to the installation. Oh apologized for the “inevitable administrative action” to the KCTU and promised it — the removal and seizure — won’t happen again.

KCTU members have been protesting in front of the mayor’s office, accusing the mayor of being “pro-Japan.” The issue may cause diplomatic confrontation and should be dealt with by the offices of the president or prime minister — not by Busan city — to prevent further clashes with Tokyo.

Law enforcement has been seriously challenged by militant union forces. KCTU members raided the Geojae mayor’s office and assaulted an executive of a company in Daejeon. Raids and use of violence have become a KCTU method of forcing demands. Why the government remains tolerant of these militant and illegal ways raises serious concerns and questions.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 19, Page 30
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