By Harry Glass
Tens of thousands of Korean workers staged a one-day general strike on 12 November against the government's anti-working class policies.
The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) said more than 150,000 of its members joined the one-day walkout - including more than 25,000 workers from the Hyundai Motor Company. Demonstrations took place in 20 cities across the country, despite the police banning street rallies.
The walkouts came after police sought arrest warrants for 56 protestors suspected of throwing stones and firebombs at riot police during a rally on Sunday 9 November. Riot police have a long history of brutality towards demonstrations - including recently the killing of a trade unionist, who died in August.
In September the government unveiled its new employment policy aimed at strengthening employers' powers and undermining the unions. Already this year 46 unions affiliated to the KCTU have been served with court orders or compensation claims after taking industrial action. Workers are also angry about increased discrimination and casualisation, and the sending of troops to Iraq.
Government figures show that there have been more disputes this year in Korea than at any time since 1990. Official records show that there have been over 300 registered disputes involving more than 131,000 workers. In May massive strikes swept through the transport and manufacturing sectors, and recent protests have been led by these sectors.
Many workers had high expectations from the Roh Moo-hyun government, which took office in February. Roh was a prominent labour lawyer, but has taken a pro-business line since his election.
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