The Korea Herald

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지나쌤

Unions to hold Labor Day rallies nationwide

By Lee Jaeeun

Published : April 30, 2024 - 14:06

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Members of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions take part in a rally near Gwanghwamun Square in Seoul on May 1, 2023, as part of activities to commemorate Labor Day, also known as International Workers' Day. (No Kyung-min/ The Korea Herald) Members of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions take part in a rally near Gwanghwamun Square in Seoul on May 1, 2023, as part of activities to commemorate Labor Day, also known as International Workers' Day. (No Kyung-min/ The Korea Herald)

South Korea‘s labor groups, including the nation’s two major umbrella unions, are set to hold large-scale rallies nationwide on Wednesday to commemorate Labor Day.

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, one of the country‘s two major umbrella trade unions, known for being independent and run democratically, plans to organize the “World Labor Day Convention” rally from Gwanghwamun in the central district of Jongno-gu to Daehan Gate in Jung-gu, Seoul at 2 p.m.

Warm-up gatherings will begin beforehand starting at 12 p.m. at various locations including: the National Police Agency Headquarters, Booyoung Building, Ministry of Employment and Labor Seoul Branch and on the steps outside Sejong Culture Center. Participants will march to Taepyeong-ro for the main demonstration at 2 p.m.

At 3 p.m., following the main rally, KCTU members plan to march in two groups toward key locations in Seoul: Samgakji Station near the presidential office in Yongsan-gu and the Ministry of Employment and Labor Seoul Branch in Jung-gu.

The KCTU said about 25,000 members are expected to attend this large-scale Seoul rally and 85,000 in total will participate in Labor Day rallies across the country.

At the same time, about 7,000 members of the Federation of Korean Trade Unions, the other major umbrella union, will gather in between National Assembly Station and the Korea Development Bank headquarters in Yeouido, Seoul to hold what it calls a national labor congress. The FKTU plans to hold the rally between 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

The KCTU is to protest the Yoon Suk Yeol government‘s labor policies and call for Yoon to step down, according to the group.

“The Yoon administration had opposed the expansion of the Serious Accident Punishment Act and has recently attempted to further discriminate against low-wage and migrant workers by applying the minimum wage on a differential basis,” the KCTU said.

Initially targeting large corporations from its inception in 2022, the Serious Accident Punishment Act has expanded to apply to small businesses with 50 employees or less since Jan. 27. If any wrongdoing is detected on the part of the company, the employer faces the possibility of at least one year in prison or fines of up to 1 billion won ($747,000) under the Serious Accidents Punishment Act.

Due to strong protests from business lobby groups, Yoon and the ruling People Power Party had asked the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea to postpone the expansion of the act for two years by proposing a revision to the act. But the Democratic Party rejected the request and the workplace safety law has been expanded.

Also, Yoon had proposed to employ foreign national students and marriage immigrants as domestic care workers, paying them wages lower than the legal minimum standard, at a meeting to review recent discussions on public welfare held on April 4.

Yoon had argued that this strategy could create job opportunities for the approximately 163,000 foreign students and 39,000 married immigrants living in Korea, specifically in housekeeping and care work.

The National Police Agency said it expects approximately 100,000 people to attend the Labor Day rallies organized by the KCTU and FKTU in major urban centers across the country and plans to deploy 162 police units to the scene.

The police agency said it would actively support registered rallies and marches but deal sternly with any illegal activities.