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President likens truckers' strike to North Korean nuclear threat

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Cargo trucks are parked at a road in Pohang, North Gyeongsang Province, Monday, as a nationwide strike by the Cargo Truckers Solidarity stretched on for the 12th consecutive day. Yonhap
Cargo trucks are parked at a road in Pohang, North Gyeongsang Province, Monday, as a nationwide strike by the Cargo Truckers Solidarity stretched on for the 12th consecutive day. Yonhap

Ruling bloc alleges umbrella union's strike linked to Pyongyang

By Nam Hyun-woo

President Yoon Suk-yeol has equated the ongoing nationwide strike by unionized truckers to North Korea's nuclear threats, saying both are menaces to South Korea that could have been prevented if the government had reacted with a disciplined approach.

Yoon made the remarks during a recent closed-door meeting with his aides, Yonhap News Agency reported, Monday.

Yoon was quoted as saying that "the recent strike is equivalent to North Korea's nuclear threats" and "if (previous governments) had engaged North Korea based on a principle of zero tolerance for nuclear weapons, there would be no threats faced by our country these days."

Yoon was also quoted by the news agency as saying, "If we condone illegal acts or violence, a vicious cycle will be repeated."

Yoon's comments come amid the Cargo Truckers Solidarity (CTS) strike, which has stretched on for the 12th day, as of Monday. The CTS has been refusing to transport cargo since Nov. 24, demanding a permanent guarantee of a minimum freight rate by the government.

The president signed an executive order last week to force unionized truckers to return to work. The strike, involving 2,500 truckers, has caused significant damage to the country's construction, steel and refining industries.

On Sunday, Yoon presided over a ministerial meeting and condemned the truckers' strike, saying the government will not compromise with any illegal acts. He also described the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), the umbrella organization of the CTS, as planning "a politically motivated strike" to support the truckers.

Ruling People Power Party Rep. Sung Il-jong, left, speaks during the party's interim leadership meeting at the National Assembly in Yeouido, Seoul, Monday. Yonhap
Ruling People Power Party Rep. Sung Il-jong, left, speaks during the party's interim leadership meeting at the National Assembly in Yeouido, Seoul, Monday. Yonhap

This is in line with growing suspicions from within the ruling People Power Party (PPP) that the KCTU has connections with North Korea.

"A solidarity message sent by the General Federation of Trade Unions of (North) Korea (GFTUK) is proudly posted on the KCTU website," Rep. Sung Il-jong said during the PPP's interim leadership meeting, Monday.

"How can this kind of writing be posted unless the KCTU is a subordinate unit of the Workers' Party of (North) Korea?" he added.

The GFTUK is one of the most important organizations in North Korea and the only authorized federation of unions there. It has approximately 1.6 million members. The organization already created headlines in South Korea after a senior member of the KCTU read the GFTUK's solidarity message during a rally on Aug. 13, claiming that South Korea's joint military exercise with the U.S. is a prelude to invading North Korea.

PPP Rep. Kwon Seong-dong also said, "The KCTU has been mentioning the necessity of abolishing the National Security Act during its strikes and this is nothing more than a confession that the strike is politically motivated."

Enacted in 1948, the National Security Act is designed to protect South Korean society from destabilizing due to North Korean threats. But the law has also been used as a tool to repress political dissidents.

North Korea also commented on the South Korean president's executive order forcing striking truckers to return to work. The North's state-controlled news outlet, Uriminzokkiri, reported on Monday that "the KCTU's sub-organizations including the CTS have criticized that the gates of dictatorship have opened" and "South Korean news outlets are describing the move as a conflict between the government and the people."
Nam Hyun-woo namhw@koreatimes.co.kr


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