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S. Korea seeks to reassure striking rail workers over new rail unit

S. Korea seeks to reassure striking rail workers over new rail unit

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Published : 2013-12-22 10:23
Updated : 2013-12-22 10:23

Despite government assurances that a new rail unit to be set up is not aimed at privatizing state rail operations, thousands of striking workers vowed Saturday to continue protests against it.

The 21,000-member rail workers' union went on strike on Dec. 9 in protest of the planned establishment of a new subsidiary of the state-run Korea Railroad Corp. (KORAIL) which they saw as a precursor to privatization which could result in mass layoffs.

In order to persuade workers to stop the protests, Transport Minister Suh Seoung-hwan said that the government will issue a license for the new rail affiliate to operate only on the condition that its stake never be sold to private investors.

Suh also said that the government will strip the new affiliate of the state license if it sells its stake to private firms. But the union rebuffed Suh's offer, demanding that the government revoke its plan to set up the new unit.

"We will continue the strike unless our demands are not met," Baek Sung-gon, the labor union spokesman, said.

KORAIL spokesman Lim Seok-gyu said that no progress has been made in efforts to end the strike.

The new unit was meant to foster competition in the country's railway sector monopolized by KORAIL whose debt reached 11.6 trillion won ($10 billion) last year.

The new service by the affiliate will run from Suseo-dong in southern Seoul to the southeastern port city of Busan by 2016.

Also Saturday, some 2,000 unionized rail workers held a protest rally in Seoul against over the alleged move to privatize the new KORAIL unit. No clash with police was reported. (Yonhap News)

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