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South Korea: Labor Union Leader Sets Himself Afire

A South Korean union leader has ended his life, enraged in anger and humiliation as the government attempted to bring racketeering charges against him over union activity. On the morning of May Day, Yang Hoe-dong, a chapter leader of a national construction workers union, set himself on fire at a courthouse where he was summoned to a hearing for the review of an arrest warrant for him. He was pronounced dead at the hospital the following day. The death was in protest of attacks by the government of President Yoon Suk-yeol on the 160,000-strong Korean Construction Workers Union and its rival union since February, when Yoon declared some of the unions’ activity “construction thuggery” and tried to eliminate it.

South Korea: Building A Powerful General Strike Is Urgent

South Korea’s right-wing government, led by president Yoon Suk-yeol, has been increasing attacks on workers’ rights and unions in recent months. The government has been anti-worker and anti-union since it took power last May, with President Yoon frequently emphasizing that his administration would “strictly respond to any illegal [labor] activities. But these traits have become blatant since successfully repressing truck drivers’ second strike last November to December, which demanded the expansion of a standard-fare system that means a minimum wage for ostensibly self-employed truck drivers.

Pyongyang Urges UN Demand End To South Korea–US Military Exercises

The United States and South Korea have been stirring up the situation on the Korean peninsula to an “extremely dangerous level,” with threatening rhetoric and a military demonstration targeting the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea), DPRK’s Vice Foreign Minister Kim Son-gyong said. In a statement published on the website of the national media aggregator KCNA, the senior official drew attention to the aerial exercises carried out by Washington and Seoul in the Yellow Sea on March 3, which included equipment such as the B-1B strategic bomber and the MQ-9 Reaper unmanned attack aircraft.

South Korea: Intelligence Agency Raids Top Union Confederation

South Korea’s intelligence agency raided the offices of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, the country’s largest organization of independent unions, and an affiliate on January 18. The high-profile raid, over alleged ties between four former and current union officers and North Korean agents, has raised fears that the conservative government is reverting to dictatorship-era methods of attacking labor by conflating organizing with threats to national security. The moves come at the same time as the conservative government, led by president Yoon Suk-yeol, seeks to lift restrictions on long working hours and reduce pension payouts while increasing worker contributions. Yoon was elected last March on an openly anti-labor platform. During the raid, 30 agents of the National Intelligence Agency (NIS) executed a search warrant on the KCTU’s headquarters in Seoul.

South Korea’s Yoon Launches Vicious Attack On Unions, Peace Groups

In scenes reminiscent of South Korea’s authoritarian past, South Korea’s National Intelligence Service – the successor to the once-dreaded KCIA – raided the headquarters of the country’s second-largest and most militant labor federation on Wednesday morning. Korean and foreign press services reported that the NIS and the National Policy Agency stormed the offices of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) and the KCTU-affiliated Korean Health and Medical Workers’ Union in Seoul. They are being charged with violating the anti-communist National Security Law by receiving orders from North Korea, possibly as spies, according to Kiji Noh, a U.S. journalist and peace activist who closely follows South Korean politics. In a related action just south of the Korean mainland, South Korea’s security forces also raided a “peace shelter” on Jeju Island that is dedicated to remembering the *Sewol*, a passenger ferry that capsized off the coast of southern Korea in April 2014 while en route to Jeju.

Why The Climate Justice March In South Korea Could Be A Game Changer

On September 24, 2022, more than 30,000 people occupied the main roads of downtown Seoul, South Korea, for the nation’s largest climate justice march. The sheer turnout of people from all walks of life and the participation by a wide range of advocacy groups were a testament to the impact of climate change on every aspect of life: human rights, women’s rights, religion, food insecurity, and labor rights. For many of these advocacy movements in Seoul, recent crises like COVID-19 have brought home the urgent need to address the climate crisis. Opening with a rally in Namdaemun Plaza at 3 p.m., the two-hour march occupied four out of six lanes of Seoul’s main Sejong-daero Boulevard. Standing on moving flatbed trucks, people spoke about the intersectionality of the climate crisis and other issues, including labor insecurity, housing instability, and social discrimination.

How Workers And Socialists Are Responding To A Workplace Death

Earlier this month, workers in South Korea launched a campaign for workplace safety against one of the country’s largest food manufacturers, SPC Group. Following the workplace death of a 23-year-old woman at one of SPC’s factories, a consumer-led boycott of the company’s products quickly developed within the country. Revolutionary socialists are playing an important role intervening with an emphasis on organizing the working class. On October 15, during a graveyard shift at an SPC factory in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi province, a 23-year-old woman working at the factory was caught in a sauce mixer she was operating and got pulled in and crushed to death. The following morning, the Twitter account of that factory’s branch of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) reported that the company simply covered the mixer with a white screen and made employees keep working.

How ‘Fist Rice’ Became A Symbol Of Korean Democracy

On a humid summer morning in the mountain-backed metropolis of Gwangju, a cluster of fifth graders shuffled into an auditorium at 5.18 Freedom Park. Here were the former barracks where the South Korean military dictator Chun Doo-hwan and his forces imprisoned, interrogated, tortured, and in some cases killed thousands of civilians in May of 1980. Today, Koreans refer to these events as “5.18,” marking the first day of the Gwangju Uprising, when city residents demanded democracy in the wake of Chun’s 1979 power grab after the assassination of Park Chung-hee, the previous dictator president. The Chun regime’s brutal response still reverberates in the lives of the city’s residents. As the young students took a breather from their field trip, a guide passed out jumbo rice balls called jumeokbap, or “fist rice.”

Joint US-South Korea Military Exercises Conclude

Between August 22 and September 1, the United States and South Korea concluded their largest joint military drills in the Korean Peninsula since 2017, under the name ‘Ulchi Freedom Shield’. Over the last four years, the scope of the annual exercises had been scaled back, first because of Donald Trump’s attempts at diplomacy with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and later because of the COVID-19 pandemic. With these drills, however, the US and South Korea seem to be attempting to send a clear message to both North Korea and China of their united military posture in the region, and come at a time when the US’ encirclement of China continues rapidly.

DPRK Korea Is Faced With US ‘Decapitation Drill’

The western corporate media described the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s launch of two missiles Aug. 17 as threatening, aggressive and paranoid. What most media failed to report was the prior U.S. military exercises with Japan and South Korea off Hawai’i, in preparation for extensive war exercises off Korea, that provoked the DPRK’s two warning shots. An Aug. 19 article in the Daily Beast, an online news website, headlined a longer and upcoming military land, sea and air exercise this way: “U.S. to Enrage Kim Jong Un With Assassination Dry Run.” The article then reads: “For the first time in years, joint exercises between the U.S. and South Korea this month will culminate in a trial run of decapitating the North Korean leadership.

South Korean Unionists Protest US-South Korea War Games

The drills will be the largest in years, and follow the May election of President Yoon Suk-yeol, who has promised to take a hardline with North Korea. Union leaders worry about risks. While many South Koreans, especially supporters of President Yoon on the right, favor close ties with the U.S., large numbers also argue the US military and the country’s alliance with Washington, prevent the improvement of ties with North Korea – and generate tension. The drills will reportedly involve a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group with extensive field training to include amphibious maneuvers. South Korea has also been training alongside US forces with recently acquired American F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. “In an effort to strengthen US-South Korea - alliance military officials from Seoul and Washington will meet to discuss the deployment of US strategic assets and extended deterrence, which refers to the deployment of US nuclear weapons in the defense of South Korea.

With RIMPAC, South Korea Expands Its Military Footprint

On June 22, 2022, 20 civic groups held a “No RIMPAC!” press conference in front of the Jeju Naval Base in Gangjeong Village, Jeju Island, South Korea. Beginning with the words “Aloha ʻĀina,” the press conference expressed solidarity with the people and all living beings in and off Hawai’i and southern California. It also demanded “peace practice, not war drills” and closure of the Jeju Naval Base. In Hawaiian, “Aloha ʻĀina” means love and care of the land and sea. Many friends from Hawai’i have visited Gangjeong in solidarity for peace during the last few years. One of them was Pua’ena, who urgently appealed to people in Jeju not to let the warships in Jeju head for Hawai’i during the current RIMPAC (Rim of the Pacific) exercises, the biggest U.S.-led multinational maritime war drill, which is held every two years.

Truckers’ Strike In South Korea Ends In Victory

The formidable truckers’ strike in South Korea came to an end after a tentative agreement was struck after late-night negotiations on Tuesday, June 14. Truck drivers returned to work on Wednesday after the deal approving the key demands put forward by the union was approved by the nation’s transport ministry. Organized by Cargo Truckers Solidarity Union, thousands of truck drivers were on an indefinite strike from June 7, bringing all ports and movement of crucial industrial goods and major exports to a standstill. Truckers were demanding government intervention to arrest the rising fuel prices and inflation. They had also demanded a significant pay hike and a guarantee towards continuance of the minimum wage rule that was introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trucker Strike Disrupts Key Industries, Threatens Automaking

Hyundai Motor is struggling to move finished cars so it can make more cars, while more than half of the country's ready-mix concrete factories have suspended operations due to a halt in the shipment of cement. Unionized truck drivers have been on a strike since Tuesday demanding higher wages and an extension of support measures, which expire at the end of this year. They blocked gates at distribution centers and refused to transport cargo. Cargo Truckers Solidarity, a union, is leading of strike, and more than 7,000 people are participating, according to local media reports. About one-third of all unionized truckers have joined in, though the number varied by the day. The truck drivers and the government have been negotiating all weekend but have so far failed reach a compromise.

Hundreds Protest Biden’s Visit To South Korea

Amid heavy security, hundreds of South Koreans gathered in front of a hotel where U.S. President Joe Biden was staying in Seoul to protest against the president's visit. People crowded in front of the Grand Hyatt Seoul hotel, near the presidential office, in the Yongsan district of Seoul, where Biden stayed during his state visit to the Asian country, which ended on Sunday. The discomfort over the presence of Biden is due to the fact that it will fuel tensions and the war on the Korean peninsula, according to analysts consulted by the local press. The U.S. president arrived in Seoul on Friday as part of a tour of South Korea and Japan to address various issues, including tensions on the Korean peninsula.
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