What country’s union is KCTU anyway?During a workers’ assembly marking the Aug. 15 National Liberation Day, Yang Kyung-soo, head of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), urged the nation to fight against the U.S. for its towering influence over the Korean Peninsula. The KCTU demanded the cancellation of the South Korea-U.S. combined Ulchi Freedom Shield drills due for next week, calling them a threat to the peace of the peninsula and neighboring countries. North Korea’s General Federation of Trade Unions sent a message to the assembly urging its South Korean counterpart to “stop and destroy a reckless war mania” of the U.S. and its following forces.
The KCTU and other unions have always been favorable toward North Korea. But a pro-North Korean umbrella union acting as the mouthpiece for Pyongyang amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, escalated tensions between the United States and China over Taiwan, and North Korean missile provocations is dumbfounding.
The South Korea-U.S. alliance is the pillar of South Korea’s security. South Korea was able to ascend to the 10th largest economy thanks to the strong alliance. The South Korea-U.S. military exercise and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) antimissile system are defense and weapons against North Korean nuclear threat. The KCTU speaking on behalf of the Pyongyang regime is no different than China and Russia.
Its pro-North Korean voice has drawn scorn from political circles. The conservative People Power Party (PPP) called on the organization to cease an outdated political protest and stick to its union umbrella role. Rep. Kweon Seong-dong, PPP floor leader, said the KCTU is echoing the democracy movement slogans in the 1980s to paint Korea as a U.S. colony. PPP Rep. Kim Ki-hyun, a former floor leader, criticized the KCTU as a “national eyesore.” Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo found the KCTU assembly pamphlets no different from the propaganda posters of North Korea opposing to the joint military drills and the Thaad.
Labor reform to fix the double structure of permanent and non-permanent workers and large and smaller companies to make the labor market more even, flexible and stable must not be delayed any longer. But reform is possible only through practical participation of unions. But the labor side is unwilling to come forward to the negotiation table for dialogue. The KCTU must stop its political struggle based on outdated ideology and work harder to help non-regular workers and employees of small and mid-sized companies. It cannot be true that the 1-million-strong KCTU would want the decades-old South Korea-U.S. alliance to collapse.