SOUTH KOREA NEWS
Public Sector Union Kicks Off Mass Relay Strikes
South Korean trade unions launched the first of a series of coordinated strikes to protest the government’s implementation of a performance-based salary and termination system as well as its plans for privatization of public industries and services. On September 22, 5,000 people, including members of the Federation of Korean Public Industry Trade Unions, held a strike rally in front of Seoul Station to make the following demands to the government:
- Rescind the introduction of coercive performance-based salary and termination systems.
- Cease opening up the energy market to private entities; cease “adjustment of functions” that will grant more power to conglomerates and private companies in shaping the public sector.
- Offer subcontracted “precarious/irregular” workers public sector jobs as full-time regular employees and improve labor conditions.
- Increase youth employment by creating quality jobs in the public sector.
The strikes are largely in response to the government’s tendency to make unilateral decisions for the public sector, such as imposing a performance-based salary system. The Park administration is justifying such policy decisions by claiming that they will increase “management efficiency” and competition among the workforce in the public sector. The president of the Federation of Korean Public Industry Trade Unions stated during the strike rally, “The government and the public institutions should rescind their illegally-formed decision… to implement a slave wage system and erase the guidelines for forced termination; in order to properly reform public institutions, they need to initiate dialogue with the labor force.”
Farmers Demand Government Action on Plummeting Rice Prices
On September 22, farmers from different parts of South Korea gathered in Seoul to demand the government address the plummeting price and increasing surplus of rice. The Korean Peasants League and the Korean Rice Production Association organized the rally to demand the government solve the issue of dropping rice prices by:
- Ceasing rice imports
- Purchasing 1 million tons of rice
- Supporting the flood victims in North Korea by sending portions of the rice surplus
The government under the Park Geun-hye administration has been claiming that Korean farmers are responsible for creating the conditions of plummeting prices by producing excessive amounts of rice. However, the government refuses to recognize that its own policy of allowing imported rice is contributing greatly to the low rice prices.
As the government continues to force the blame on the farmers, the farmers demand an end to the Park regime. During the September 22 rally, the farmers resolved to continue fighting and build momentum toward the mass people’s demonstration planned for November. Leaders of the farmers’ organizations shaved their heads in protest of the Park administration and its attack on the livelihood of working farmers. Approximately 5,000 people gathered for the rally. They marched through the streets of Seoul and appealed to the public about the plight of the country’s rice farmers.
Labor and Civic Groups Announce People Power Mass Mobe in November
Representatives of labor unions and civil society groups held a press conference on September 20 to announce plans for another “People Power Mass Mobilization” in November. Among those at the press conference were the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), Korean Peasants League (Junnong), Korean Women Peasants Association (KWPA), and the Korean Urban Poor Association. During the press conference, the representatives of these organizations talked about action steps leading up to the nationwide mobilization on November 12.
Much like the mass demonstration in November 2015, workers, farmers, urban poor, youth, women and peace activists are joining forces to hold the Park Geun-hye regime accountable for threatening the livelihood of anyone it considers in the way of its undemocratic, anti-people and hawkish policies.
NORTH KOREA NEWS
Flood Damage in North Korea Prompts International Calls for Assistance
The new United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Tomás Ojea Quintana, called this week for increased support for the victims of Typhoon Lionrock, which devastated the northeastern part of North Korea earlier this month, according to Relief Web, a website run by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
“According to official figures, 138 people were killed and 400 people remain missing,” Relief Web reports, “The UN estimates that 140,000, including pregnant women, persons with disabilities, older persons and children, require assistance.”
Worst Disaster in Seventy Years
Typhoon Lionrock, which swept through North Hamgyeong and Yanggang Provinces in North Korea from August 29 through September 1, raised the water level of the Tumen River by six to twelve meters and flooded populated areas. The town of Gangan in Hoeryeong City, North Hamgyeong Province reports twenty percent of its population as either dead or missing. An international team of 22 people who surveyed the affected areas from September 6 to September 9 reportedly said, “There is not a single building left standing in the town of Gangan, and it appears as if the entire town has fallen through the earth.”
Park Administration Rejects Calls for Humanitarian Aid
The Park Geun-hye administration announced this week that even if North Korea were to make a direct appeal to the South for humanitarian assistance, it would not oblige. At a briefing on September 19, South Korea’s Unification Minister Jeong Jun-hee linked North Korea’s fifth nuclear test to the question of humanitarian assistance and accused North Korea of prioritizing nuclear weapons development over civilian needs. Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Seon Nam-guk echoed this view at a briefing the following day.
South Korean Civil Society Demands Assistance for Flood Victims
Civil society organizations in South Korea, on the other hand, are demanding the government open a channel for them to send humanitarian assistance to their counterparts in the north.
The National Council of Civic Groups for Cooperation with the North, composed of fifty-four organizations, has applied for official permission from the Ministry of Unification to have contact with North Korean citizens for the purpose of providing humanitarian assistance to flood victims and is awaiting a response from the ministry.
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