Government Strikebreaking in South Korea

The south Korean government sent riot police against thousands of striking bank workers on Dec. 27. The next day, the workers were forced to settle their strike against a massive bank merger.


The south Korean government sent riot police against thousands of striking bank workers on Dec. 27. The next day, the workers were forced to settle their strike against a massive bank merger.

The strike began on Dec. 22 when bank workers at south Korea’s two major commercial banks, Kookmin and Housing & Commercial Bank, walked off the job to protest the banks’ merger. The merger plans were fallout from the 1998 Asian financial crisis, when companies across south Korea went bankrupt.

The merger’s biggest backers were the government of Kim Dae Jung, the International Monetary Fund, and the banks’ largest shareholders–Goldman Sachs from the United States and ING Insurance International BV of the Netherlands.

After the walkout on Dec. 22, some 15,000 workers occupied the offices of a banking research center in Ilsan, four miles from Seoul. Riot police and helicopters immediately surrounded the sit-in, and the government issued orders for the arrest of union leaders. The government threatened to fire striking workers.

The workers held firm until the Dec. 27 attack. The
government launched the attack on the eve of a sympathy strike threat by other banking workers.

While the morale of the Kookmin and Housing & Commercial Bank workers remained high, the attack apparently had an effect on the other banking workers. On Dec. 28, few of the workers’ sister and brother unionists backed the sympathy strikes, and the workers voted to return to work.

“There should be no punishment, criminal or civil, toward the union members,” a Dec. 28 union statement warned. “If this demand is not met, we will strike again early next year.”

The number of strikes increased in 2000 by 27 percent, according to a Dec. 26 Asia Pulse report. The number of workers taking part in strikes doubled, from 90,000 in 1999 to 180,000 in 2000.

Author:

News Service: Workers World News Service

URL: http://www.workers.org