Rail workers in South Korea have been on strike since 9 December in an attempt to stop the privatization of KORAIL, the state-owned rail system. On 22 December, under instructions from South Korean President, Park Geun-hye, 5,000 riot police raided the headquarters of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) in an attempt to capture the leaders of the strike. While the leaders eluded them, the police arrested more than 120 unionists in the building.
Following the attack, an emergency rally was called on 27 December at the Korean Consulate in San Francisco, in conjunction with other protests at Korean embassies and consulates around the world, to coincide with a one-day national general strike called by the KCTU the following day. The remarks below were made by an IBT supporter at the demonstration (a video of the protest and speech is also available).
The International Bolshevik Tendency joins this demonstration and thousands of class conscious workers around the world to demand the immediate, unconditional release of all jailed trade unionists in South Korea; the lifting of the suspension of all 8,000 KORAIL workers and an end to attempts to privatize the rail system.
The South Korean President, Park Geun-hye, was elected in December 2012 with assistance from both the National Intelligence Service and the Defense Security Command. Her government wasted no time attacking the working class. She quickly declared the Korean Teachers and Educational Workers’ Union illegal and conducted a witch-hunt against the Unified Progressive Party.
In the past decade and a half there has already been a massive transfer of state assets to private corporations. These have so far included banks, telecommunications, tobacco, iron and steel. Now the Park regime is moving to privatize the railways.
South Korean rail workers have been striking against this privatization drive since 9 December, and the battle lines are already drawn. If they are to win the strike must be broadened and the working class support mobilized within South Korea and beyond.
To win this critical fight the workers cannot play by the bosses’ rules. The capitalists have been aggressive and unrestrained in their attack. They have attacked the headquarters of the KCTU with tear gas. Now they are even demanding that the unions compensate state-owned companies for losses caused by the strike! Yet so far the rail union leaders have pursued “gentle” tactics, abiding by crippling legal requirements to maintain a minimum level of rail service.
The rail workers must take the next step, break the law and shut down rail operations with an all-out strike. A firm stand is the best way to rally support from other unions and the millions of workers who will suffer if the privatization drive succeeds. Following the attack on their headquarters, the KCTU leadership has called a one-day general strike for tomorrow, 28 December. To be effective, this action cannot be limited to a one-day event but should be aimed at rallying enough support from other unions to smash this attack.
Capitalism will never work in the interests of the vast majority of society. Only through the collective power of the working class can we replace it with a socialist system which meets real human needs. The International Bolshevik Tendency believes that the working class needs a party based on the Marxist program: a party which is internationalist, consistently defends workers at home and abroad, and upholds the best traditions of the Bolshevik Party of Lenin and Trotsky.
Today’s demonstration in defense of South Korea’s rail workers is an example of the sort of international solidarity that is necessary to win. We look forward to participating in larger and more militant actions in future.
Victory to the South Korean rail workers!
Workers of the world unite!