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South Korean Strikes Widen With Taxi Walkout - 2002-05-24

Thousands of South Korean taxi drivers have joined a strike organized by labor unions one week before the beginning of the World Cup football (soccer) finals.

The cab drivers' action Friday adds to a range of potential problems for the government as it prepares for the games, which begin on May 31st.

The government - concerned about possible terror attacks, hooliganism, and disruption caused by an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease - has vowed to take tough action if labor unions disrupt the games

Altogether, an estimated 40,000 South Korean workers including hospital workers, metal, chemical and other industry workers have walked off their jobs since Wednesday.

Union leaders are demanding wage increases, a 40-hour work week and a halt to controversial government plans to sell off state-run enterprises. The sell-off plan has been one of President Kim Dae-jung's highest priorities, but labor groups fear the program will lead to big job losses.

Hundreds of thousands of tourists will be in South Korea for the month-long tournament, and major strikes of transport or hotel workers could disrupt the World Cup events.