Anchor: Unionized rail workers began a four-day general strike on Thursday. It marks their first collective action in about four years and is expected to reduce passenger and freight train services by up to 60 percent, which may cripple vital routes during the Chuseok holiday at the end of this month.
Max Lee reports.
Report: The Korean Railway Workers’ Union began its nationwide four-day walkout at 9 A.M. Thursday, calling for better working conditions. The workers also demanded an expansion of KTX high-speed train services to include a station in southern Seoul.
The four-day strike looks to pressure the transport ministry to come to the negotiation table on allowing high-speed KTX trains to access the Suseo Station, which is currently the starting station of another high-speed train service called Super Rapid Train (SRT).
Both the KTX and the SRT are run by SR Corporation but start its operations at Seoul Station and Suseo Station respectively, while using different routes to Pyeongtaek, some 60 kilometers south of Seoul, on the way to southern ports cities of Busan and Mokpo.
The walkout has raised alarm bells, as it comes two weeks ahead of the Chuseok holidays, which usually see a mass exodus out of the greater Seoul region to their hometown across the nation, many of them using trains.
The union argues that by combining KTX and SRT services, it will help with seat shortages and fare costs. It’s also demanding better working conditions, such as a full implementation of the four-team, two-shift system that the company has agreed to implement, so that rail workers do not work the night shift for two straight days.
Meanwhile, to ensure that KTX and other train services run at 70 percent of its normal capacity during the morning and evening rush hours, KORAIL plans to mobilize replacement workers.
Earlier on Wednesday, Labor Minister Lee Jeong-sik urged unionized rail workers to call off their plan to stage the collective action, saying the general strike will adversely impact the economy and people’s daily lives.
Marking their first collective action in almost four years, the strike is expected to reduce passenger and freight train services by 20 to 60 percent and will last until 9 A.M. Monday.
Max Lee KBS World Radio News.