Thousands strike, S. Korea threatens to use force

SEOUL: Tens of thousands of workers walked out in South Korea yesterday as the government threatened to use force to break up “politically motivated” strikes. 

Some 10,000 of them marched down the street in downtown Seoul, chanting slogans and carrying banners. They included representatives from various industries, teacher unions, government employees and clerks. 

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) said workers at some 100 workplaces, including the nation's largest car maker Hyundai Motor Co, joined four-hour protest walkouts.  

Prime Minister Goh Kun branded the strikes illegal and said the government will hold union leaders responsible for their actions. 

The KCTU called the work stoppage as part of its push for changes to controversial regulations governing the establishment of special economic zones which are set to be implemented on July 1. 

Also yesterday, over one million North Koreans crowded Pyongyang's streets for anti-American rallies, part of government commemorations marking the 53rd anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War. 

The crowds vowed to fight US pressure by building nuclear weapons, state media said. It was apparently part of efforts to fuel anti-American sentiment. 

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun marked the war anniversary with appeals to the impoverished North to give up its suspected development of nuclear weapons in return for international aid. – AP/AFP  

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