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"No More Deaths" Labor, Civil Society, and the Religious Circle Take Action
By Gwak Hui-yang, Park Sun-bong
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Within a week after the eighteenth presidential election, three workers and a civic group activist have taken their own lives. The civil society is taking action calling for an end to any more deaths.

They announced their plans for a general strike in January next year demanding President Lee Myung-bak and president-elect Park Geun-hye to put an end to labor repression by suspending the temporary seizures of property for damage claims, etc.

Three civic groups including a Network for a World without Temporary Workers and Let's Live Together held a memorial for the workers who took their own lives. More than 300 citizens attended the service, which began at 7 p.m. on December 26 in front of Daehanmun, Deoksugung Palace, Seoul.

Members of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions and civic and religious organizations express their determination at a press conference after an emergency meeting to succeed the martyr spirit, to annihilate labor repression, and to resolve labor issues at the confederation headquarters in Jung-gu, Seoul on December 26. Yonhap News

Park Lae-goon, executive director of the Human Rights Foundation Saram, said in his eulogy, "I am scared. I'm scared I might hear that someone has died." He said, "I understand the dark despair of having to endure another five years under Park Geun-hye following the five years under the Lee Myung-bak government." He tearfully added, "But let's not die. Even if we do die, let's die fighting. Let's force hope if we have to." Citizens lowered their heads eyeing the candles to hold back tears.

Han Sang-cheol, vice president of the union's Hanjin Heavy Industries chapter, said, "After the Hope Bus, the Hanjin Heavy Industries union has lost its members to other trade unions and a union established by management. Slightly over twenty members remain and are fighting a lonely battle. Give us strength to overcome this grief and bravely fight our battle."

Previously at 6 p.m. at this site the Labor Committee of the Korean Buddhist Jogye Order held a closing ceremony ending their prayers of 100,000 bows for the resolution of Ssangyong Motor layoffs. Members of the Labor Committee and labor groups along with ordinary citizens bowed 1,000 times for 100 days--from September 17 until December 25--praying for the resolution of labor issues.

During the closing ceremony, Monk Dobeop said, "Four precious lives let go of their hold on life after the election. This is not simply a personal issue, but a problem that concerns all of us. Politicians and business owners must listen to the sighs of the workers and present solutions."

More than fifty figures from labor, civic groups, and the religious circle including the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, the National Association of Professors for a Democratic Society, and Hyangrin Presbyterian Church gathered at a conference room at the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions office in Jeong-dong, Seoul to attend an emergency meeting and announced their plans to take action including a general strike in January next year.

The members of the meeting announced at a press conference, "All the workers wanted through a change of government was the right to work and not die, the right to earn as much as they worked, and a society which understands the common knowledge that workers should be able to take part in union activities without being assaulted.

However, these expectations came to nothing with the results of the election, and so workers have cast their priceless lives." They continued, "The Lee Myung-bak government has done nothing for the workers who have been protesting atop steel towers and bridges for over two months.

They should take the responsibility for having contributed to the situation and work to bring the workers down safely." They also made requests to president-elect Park Geun-hye: "If she is to talk about a true grand union, she must start by solving labor issues. She should hold deep in her heart the cries of the deceased who asked how they were to endure another five years and take visible measures."

Members of the meeting decided to hold a candlelight vigil in front of Daehanmun, Seoul on December 28 and will convene for its second meeting on January 4, 2013.

Copyright The Kyunghyang Shinmun. All rights reserved. Reproduction and redistribution without permission absolutely prohibited.

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