Thousands of South Koreans protest over labour policies

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Thousands of South Koreans marched in Seoul on Friday for a third week to protest government labor policies and the handling of a ferry disaster that killed more than 300 people a year ago.

Demonstrators occupied several downtown streets and sporadically clashed with police officers, who created tight perimeters with their buses to block the marchers.

In several streets, protesters tried to move the buses by pulling ropes they tied near the vehicles' wheels and police responded by spraying tear gas. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

South Korean labor groups have been denouncing a series of government policies they believe will reduce wages, job security and retirement benefits for state employees.

"We, the workers, will succeed in forcing the administration of (President) Park Geun-hye to stop its repression of labor," Han Sang-goon, president of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, shouted at one of the rallies.

Marches on May 1 are rooted in labor movements worldwide. The demonstrations in Seoul were joined by supporters of the ferry victims' relatives who want a more thorough investigation into the sinking. At an earlier demonstration on April 18, dozens of people were hurt in a violent clash between police and demonstrators.

The ferry disaster continues to be a thorny issue for increasingly unpopular Park, despite her bowing to relatives' demand to proceed with the difficult and potentially dangerous job of salvaging the vessel. Relatives also want a new investigation to look into the government's responsibility for the disaster, which was blamed in part on official incompetence and corruption.

A total of 304 people, most of them schoolchildren, died when the ferry Sewol sank last year. Nine victims' bodies have not been found.

 

Posted on May, 1 2015

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