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South Korea to Fire Striking State Power Workers - 2002-03-25


The South Korean government said Monday it would fire 3,000 state power workers who are striking to protest privatization plans which they fear could lead to mass lay-offs. Riot police stormed a university campus earlier Monday to break up the workers' demonstration.

The South Korean government had set a Monday morning deadline for the power workers to end their walkout or lose their jobs and now the state-run power monopoly says it will follow through.

In a joint statement, shortly after the deadline passed, five affiliates of the Korea Electric Power Corporation, or KEPCO, said that they would proceed with plans to dismiss the workers.

Earlier Monday, thousands of riot police poured onto the campus of Seoul's Yonsei University to stop the workers from demonstrating. Witnesses say they detained up to 380 protestors.

That raid followed clashes on Sunday between labor activists and police, who battled as the police tried to break-up the demonstrations. Students hurled firebombs at police, who fought back with truncheons.

The power employees began their strike on February 25 to pressure the government into dropping its plan to privatize the electricity sector, a key plank of President Kim Dae-jung's economic reform agenda.

The South Korean government says the strike is illegal, since the workers are state employees.

So far the strike has not caused any major power disruptions, since sufficient staff has been found to temporarily operate the plants, which are also highly automated.

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