At least 210 people died in the ferry sinking. Korean workers will celebrate May Day with solemnity. We share with you the union's newsletter
This year, Korean workers commemorate May Day in the midst of a period of mourning. The tragic April 16 Sewol ferry disaster, which left hundreds of school children and other passengers dead or missing, has cast a dark shadow across this day, which should be used to celebrate the international labour movement.
There will be no colourful marches and rallies this year. Instead, the theme for Korean Confederation of Trade Union (KCTU) May Day events this year will be the expression of ‘sorrow and rage’. KCTU’s main rally in Seoul will be used to mourn the victims of the Sewol disaster and channel into a positive voice for reform the growing anger at the government and capital’s inattention and avarice – the causes of these and so many other deaths. Ten thousand workers are expected to gather in Seoul and fifty thousand nationally.
Safety experts are now pointing to excessive deregulations, privatisation of public transport and emergency services, the use of precarious work arrangements and the corrupt appointment of officials in oversight agencies as causes of the Sewol tragedy. These issues are at the heart of the erosion of social and democratic rights now underway in South Korea. On May Day, Korean workers must mourn not only the senseless loss of life from the ferry accident, but also rampant occupational accidents and illness, the social murder of mass dismissals and the neglect of low-wage workers, the poor, the disabled and other vulnerable groups. Korean unions will also declare their commitment to struggle against the capitalist greed and government support for it that are the root causes of so much tragedy.
This May Day, the KCTU and its affiliates will call on the government to take responsibility for the inattention to safety that led to the ferry sinking and put forth demands in relation to the Sewol tragedy including calling for an end to policies of deregulation and privatisation, which put profit ahead of people’s lives, strengthening of penalties against business owners responsible for large-scale accidents and enforcement of laws prohibiting the use of precarious workers for permanent work.