The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) together with affiliates, including the Korean Public Service and Transport Workers Union (KPTU), recently organized a “Social General Strike” that began on June 30th, 2017. The strike was driven by low-wage “precarious workers” to demand an increase in the minimum wage; reversal of former President Park Geun-hye’s regressive labor reforms; and an end to the country’s chaebol-centered economic system. Precarious workers make up around 1-in-4 of the KCTU’s current membership, and 40% of the KPTU’s membership. The actions are the latest in a series of tumultuous developments triggered by a series of strikes in 2015 and 2016 that culminated in last October’s candlelight uprising that led to the fall of President Park.
KPTU told TUED:
“Over 60,000 workers participate in the social general strike (57 thousand of whom were actually striking) and the strike pushed the government to recommit to its plan to introduce a 10 thousand won minimum wage by 2020 and helped in acheive a 16.4% increase of the minimum wage (from 6470 to 7530 won) on July 17.”
In the article below, Wol-san Liem, KPTU’s Director of International and Korean Peninsula Affairs, and member of TUED’s Global Advisory Group, discusses the aims of the Social General Strike and the labor movement’s priorities following the recent election of president Moon Jae-in, the candidate of the left-of-center Democratic Party.