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Major union slammed for pushing ahead with labor rallies despite pandemic

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Members of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions stage a rally in front of the Ministry of Economy and Finance building in Sejong, Wednesday. Although the rally was not in violation of the city's current social distancing rules, concerns are rising over the KCTU's plan to hold other massive rallies in Wonju, Gangwon Province, this Friday and July 30, despite concerns over resurgence of COVID-19 infections and the government's repeated warnings of a stern response. Yonhap
Members of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions stage a rally in front of the Ministry of Economy and Finance building in Sejong, Wednesday. Although the rally was not in violation of the city's current social distancing rules, concerns are rising over the KCTU's plan to hold other massive rallies in Wonju, Gangwon Province, this Friday and July 30, despite concerns over resurgence of COVID-19 infections and the government's repeated warnings of a stern response. Yonhap

By Jung Da-min

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), a major umbrella union here, has been slammed for pushing ahead with massive rallies amid a fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and the government's repeated warnings of a stern response.

After holding a massive rally July 3, where around 8,000 members of the union gathered in central Seoul's Jongno District despite the government's demands to cancel the gathering, the KCTU again staged another rally participated in by about 400 members in front of the Ministry of Economy and Finance building in Sejong. The rally there did not violate the administrative city's current social distancing rules.

The KCTU said earlier this week that it is also planning to stage two more rallies, this Friday and July 30, in Wonju, Gangwon Province.

The government has been issuing stern warnings to the union amid the resurgence of COVID-19 infections.

"The period between the end of July and the beginning of August is expected to be the biggest turning point for this resurgence of COVID-19," Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said, Wednesday, while presiding over a meeting of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters at the Government Complex Seoul.

"We call on the KCTU to cooperate with the government's request to submit a list of the participants of the rally held July 3 and withdraw its plans to hold other massive gatherings."

Among the participants of the July 3 rally, at least three have tested positive for COVID-19, sparking concerns about a potential infection cluster amid spiking virus cases. So far, police have booked six key participants on suspicions of violating the Law on Assembly and Demonstration, the Infectious Disease Control and Prevention Act, and obstructing traffic.

Some residents of Wonju have been gathering signatures from people who oppose the KCTU's plan to hold massive rallies in the city, while expressing concerns over possible infections and the resultant impact on the regional economy.

But the KCTU leadership claims the government is blaming its failure to manage the COVID-19 quarantine on the rallies. KCTU head Yang Kyung-soo said Monday on Facebook: "The spread of COVID-19 is not due to the assembly of workers but due to the government's failure in prevention and quarantine policies."

While planning a full-scale walkout in November, the KCTU has been demanding the abolition of irregular employment, a halt to job cuts, a hike in the minimum wage and increased safety measures to prevent industrial accidents.


Jung Da-min damin.jung@koreatimes.co.kr


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