Accessibility links

S. Korean Police Detain Union Leaders

Power workers continue a week-long strike in South Korea, while police detain some leaders of a three-day rail strike that created commuter chaos.

In South Korea, police have detained at least 11 rail workers who organized a three-day strike last week. The walkout caused severe problems for passengers and cargo traffic. If convicted of charges of organizing an illegal strike, the union leaders face up to five years in jail.

The country's state-run power company said Monday that it plans to fire 47 workers accused of the same offense. The workers are all public-sector employees and the government has declared their strike illegal.

While the rail strike and a work stoppage by gas workers ended last week after unionists compromised with management, 5,000 power workers are still holding out. They are protesting government plans to sell off state utilities and are also demanding a shorter work week.

The power workers, who have been on strike for a week, warn power blackouts may hit. Officials from the state power monopoly are threatening to file a claim against strike leaders to compensate for losses incurred during the work stoppage.

So far, disruptions have been limited thanks to a high degree of automation at power plants. Government officials say that even if the strike is prolonged, it will not create serious problems because nuclear power plants generate sufficient surplus electricity.

Privatization of inefficient state utilities is one of South Korean President Kim Dae-jung's main economic goals in his last year in office. The program is part of reforms to help the country overcome the Asian financial crisis of 1997. But workers fear the plans could lead to huge layoffs.