Posted November. 13, 2006 07:00,
Updated January. 01, 1970 09:00
Despite public criticism on large assemblies held downtown, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) pushed ahead with its plan for a 2006 national workers convention. This event was held at Seoul Square in front of City Hall yesterday and heralded a general strike, which is scheduled to take place this coming Wednesday. However, contrary to its original plan, the KCTU did not take to the streets.
Initially, the KCTU reported that it will hold a workers march in Sejongno, Seoul. The police, however, refused its request, citing traffic jams as a reason, and the KCTU rushed to change the place to Seoul Square.
There was no significant traffic congestion during the assembly-
The KCTU held assemblies in five places in Seoul: Seoul Square, in front of Seoul Station, the Marronnier Park in Daehangno, Hullyeonwon Park in Euljiro, and the Cheonggye Square.
Before the convention, the freight transportation workers association, affiliated organizations of the KCTU, had an assembly with the participation of 8,000 members at Marronnier Park, but gave up its planned street march.
According to senior members of the freight transportation workers association, it originally planned to march from the Marronnier Park to Jongno 5-ga, one kilometer away, and take buses or the subway from Jongno 5-ga to the Seoul Square. However, with the number of participants exceeding its estimate, the association decided to forsake its original plan and ordered members to move to Seoul Square and Cultural Square in Yeouido through buses. The facilitators of the assembly even asked participants who were disorderly moved during lunchtime not to cross the police line.
Meanwhile, the public transportation workers association also held an assembly before their convention in front of Seoul Station with 3,000 union members and marched to Seoul Square while occupying only two lanes of two kilometer distance as promised.
Before the march, the association members asked participants to walk fast to minimize traffic congestion in this area and avoid shouting slogans that can stimulate citizens and police during the march.
According to the police, this march only took 30 minutes, which normally takes 50 minutes in average. Park Saeng-su, chief of Transportation Information Center of Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, said, Thanks to participants cooperation, there was no serious traffic jam despite its voluminous size.
The Seoul city government, meanwhile, canceled a concert called The Reserve of Every Day Life, which had been scheduled for 2 p.m. at Seoul Square to prevent possible confrontation with the convention.
About 17,000 participated in this convention and most were voluntarily dismissed at 5:10 p.m.
Is that right to assume that the KCTU is seeking change?-
In regard to the 2006 national workers convention stressing law-abiding attitudes, the KCTU said, We had to consider the negative attitude of the public about this convention. Woo Moon-suk, spokesperson of the KCTU, said, The KCTU executive members are now working hard to come up with ideas to mitigate negative public views of our activities. This announcement demonstrates its acknowledgement for the necessity of changing its current strategy for struggle.
However, it is too early to assert that the KCTU will continuously play it low key to gain public support.
Jang Hyeon-su, director of the education and advertisement team of the freight transportation workers association, said, Since members decided to conduct the assembly in a peaceful way at an executive meeting, we held the assembly in such a way, adding, If police continue prohibiting the peaceful assembly and just ask organizers to yield, people wont see peaceful assemblies like this any more.
Meanwhile, the KCTU will have an election in the next January to select its new chairman.
A source from the labor circle said, It is expected that during election campaign, a possible way for a change of the current struggle and whether to introduce a new strategy of labor movement will be surely addressed.