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S. Korean Union Threatens World Cup Strike


A large South Korean labor union has threatened to call a strike during the World Cup soccer championships, unless the government accepts its demand for a shorter workweek and halts privatization of state utilities.

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, the country's second largest labor organization, is threatening to go on nationwide strike in key sectors ahead of the start of the World Cup finals, which kick off at the end of this month.

An official of the labor organization, which represents 600,000 workers, says unless the government implements a five-day workweek and ends privatization of state-run utilities it will order the walkouts.

Most threatening to the World Cup, according to the labor federation, would be simultaneous strikes by 10,000 taxi drivers, 25,000 hospital workers, as well as tens of thousands of employees in industrial sectors.

President Kim Dae-jung has appealed to management and workers to avoid strikes during the World Cup finals in order not to cause embarrassment.

South Korea's union that represents power utility workers staged a six-week illegal strike starting in late February. The management fired hundreds of striking unionists, furthering angering the umbrella labor federation. The trade union fears privatization of the utility companies will cause massive layoffs.

President Kim, who is in his last full year in office, has pledge to privatize the state-run utilities during his term, but also promised to introduce a shorter workweek. The unions want him to drop the first promise and keep the second.