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Labor union plans mass rally amid virus worries

(Yonhap)
(Yonhap)
A major labor union group is pushing ahead with a mass protest plan in Seoul next week, despite warnings over coronavirus infections. 

The Seoul Metropolitan Government said it will hold the organizer responsible should the virus spread among rally participants.

On July 4, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, one of two major umbrella labor groups in Korea, is scheduled to hold a nationwide rally in central Seoul to demand government measures to protect non-regular workers from pandemic-triggered mass firings and other labor issues. According to a rally plan reported to police, the group expects around 100,000 participants, many of whom will be traveling to Seoul from all over the country.

The KCTU said it will make it a rule that protesters maintain distance from each other, wear face masks and follow other necessary virus precautions, but officials in Seoul are far from convinced.  

It is nearly impossible for disease control measures to be observed when people gather in such numbers, officials said, adding that they are in talks with the KCTU to persuade them to cancel the scheduled rally. Should the union push ahead and the rally lead to a spike in virus cases, the authority will review legal action, they said.

“Citizens are much worried as a major rally with a huge number of people is scheduled while infections are spreading in the capital region,” the city government said in a statement Wednesday. “We ask involved organizations to refrain from holding the rally.”

The KCTU, at the mass gathering, aims to pressure the government to act on the pandemic-triggered layoffs and toughen punishments on employers responsible for industrial accidents. As the Minimum Wage Council is underway, the labor group is also expected to argue for higher wages next year.

To ensure social distancing and keep the coronavirus at bay, the Seoul city government has restricted some areas from rallies and mass gatherings, but the KCTU picked a new spot within Jung-gu.

By Ko Jun-tae (ko.juntae@heraldcorp.com)
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