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Hanjin workers must fight for their rights

Church must pay attention to workers, who are the majority of the people of our time

Hanjin workers must fight for their rights
Father Vincentius Kim Jun-han
Father Vincentius Kim Jun-han

August 12, 2011

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The Church has shown a deep interest in worldly affairs for a long time. It is following the words of God who is justice and peace, which is called the “social doctrine,” or the social teachings of the Church. The essence of the social teachings is “labor”. That’s why the Church must pay attention to workers, who are the majority of the people of our time. Striking workers at the Hanjin shipyard in Busan have been demanding the company abandon its plan to lay off 400 employees, announced in December 2010. Their struggle is being led by trade union member Kim Jin-suk, who spent her 219th day of protest today in the cabin of a 35-meter-high crane. Kim’s protest in a crane represents the reality of the workers who are driven to the brink of a cliff and struggle to survive. The point of the Hanjin strike is the workers’ right to live. Every evening, the laid-off workers’ families gather and pray at the shipyard. They are not asking for more wages or better welfare. They just want the right to work. Tens of thousands of people from all over the country flooded into the shipyard in Busan on “Buses of Hope” to support them. It was because Kim’s outcry has moved people’s hearts. The chairman of Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction, Cho Nam-ho, and his family took over the first shipyard in South Korea with the government’s support long ago. But Cho is a vicious entrepreneur who has made a tool of workers only for his family in the name of globalization. Mass layoffs and moving domestic capital overseas have followed. Such behavior is no more than social murder that destroys not only workers’ lives but their families’ lives. Cho constructed another Hanjin shipyard in Subic Bay in the Philippines but the workers’ situation in the Subic shipyard is not much different from workers here. Cho, who has learned bad habits from South Korea and is accustomed to them, will annihilate the Philippine workers’ rights as well. He refused to acknowledge any social responsibility and fled abroad. Cho held a press conference in Busan on August 10 upon returning home and shed crocodile tears while refusing to withdraw the planned layoffs. He paid out extra dividends of tens of billions of won (several million US dollars) to his family and stockholders but does not want to give out a penny for the workers who have struggled to hold on to the company. Many people’s desire is very simple. They want Cho to withdraw the planned mass layoff and to continue to run the Busan shipyard along with the Subic one, because it is not right to close one of the two only for capital profit. We are going to keep gathering at the Busan shipyard to pray for God’s help and draw people’s attention. And tens of Catholic priests and Religious, along with hundreds of Catholics, celebrate Masses on the street to support Kim’s cause and pray for a speedy settlement. The street Mass is our small effort to practise the will of Jesus, who loves workers. During the Mass we also remember the workers at the Subic shipyard as a gesture of solidarity with them. Father Vincentius Kim Jun-han is president of Pusan diocese's Committee for Justice and Peace The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of
Related reports: Catholics lend support for Hanjin strike Shipyard protest turns ugly
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