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Monday, September 01 2014 @ 08:51 PM CDT

South Korea: Police surround Buddhist temple in search of railway unionists

SEOUL, Dec. 25 (Yonhap) -- Hundreds of riot police surrounded Jogyesa temple in downtown Seoul Wednesday in search of railway unionists taking shelter there, as their strike entered its 17th day during the year-end peak season. According to police, four union members of the state-run KORAIL have been hiding in Jogyesa, one of the nation's most well-known temples, since last night.

South Korea: Police surround Buddhist temple in search of railway unionists

2013/12/25

SEOUL, Dec. 25 (Yonhap) -- Hundreds of riot police surrounded Jogyesa temple in downtown Seoul Wednesday in search of railway unionists taking shelter there, as their strike entered its 17th day during the year-end peak season.

According to police, four union members of the state-run KORAIL have been hiding in Jogyesa, one of the nation's most well-known temples, since last night.

Among them are three KORAIL union members and one deputy labor union leader, Park Tae-man, for whom an arrest warrant has been issued.

A local court earlier issued arrest warrants for nine KORAIL union members who led the weeks-long strikes.

More than 6,500 unionized KORAIL workers have walked off the job since Dec. 9 in protest of a government decision to set up a subsidiary to run part of the high-speed train services.

The union suspects the move is a scheme to privatize the state-run operator, which could lead to mass layoffs and rail fare hike. The government insists the strike is illegal,

Later in the day, the KORAIL labor union apologized for taking shelter in the temple without approval, while proposing the government and company leadership sit down at the negotiating table to resolve the standoff.

"We are desperately asking the temple for leniency, which has taken care of the socially underprivileged in the past," Baek Sung-kon, labor union spokesman, said in a press briefing held in Yongsan. "We urge the government and KORAIL to listen to people's voice against privatization of KORAIL and engage in dialogue with the labor union to resolve the conflict."

Until then, the labor union will continue their strike to protest against the government's move to privatize the state-run rail operator, Baek added.

After President Park Geun-hye urged authorities to sternly deal with the labor union, police on Sunday stormed into the headquarters of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) in central Seoul to arrest union leaders. However, they were unable to find any of nine labor union leaders, who slipped through the police net.

The unionists' taking shelter raised concern over a prolonged strike as police are reluctant to crack down the symbolic religious place in fear of public backlash.

On Christmas, Choi Yeon-hye, KORAIL's first female CEO, visited a Seoul branch to encourage substitute staff to pay extra attention to ensure passenger safety and urged striking workers to come back to work.

"An illegal strike taking hostage of people's lives cannot be justified under any circumstances," Choi said. "I want workers to come back to their work place as soon as possible." http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/national/2013/12/25/12/0302000000AEN20131225002451315F.html

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