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Korean bishop calls for greater support for workers

People who produce prosperity should share in it, says prelate

Korean bishop calls for greater support for workers
Bishop Ri, center, leads a procession ahead of Labor Day celebrations
John Choi, Seoul

April 30, 2013

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A bishop in Suwon called on society to respect workers’ rights during a commemorative march to the Daehanmun gate ahead of the country’s celebration of Labor Day on Wednesday.

The gate, located at Seoul’s Deoksugung palace, has a memorial marker that lists the names of 24 people killed in clashes between activists and the Ssangyong Motor Company in 2009.

“This place has played a role in sending a message from workers to the larger society. I come here to pray for the dead. Our church will take sides with them and I hope more join us in solidarity,” Bishop Matthias Ri Iong-hoon said on Tuesday.

The bishop later led a procession to the Franciscan Education Center, where he celebrated Mass with 400 priests, Religious and lay people.

Ssangyong shed 2,645 jobs in 2009 over financial difficulties, which led to a 77-day standoff with workers that was dispersed by a police raid and led to the deaths of 24 people.

In a statement released after the Mass, Bishop Ri said workers need more recognition for their contributions to the strength of the country’s economy.

“Currently, the affluent South Korean economy is the fruit of workers’ sweat and sacrifices. However, the labor environment is still inferior,” he said.

Kim Jeong-woo, president of the fired Ssangyong workers' union, told that he would continue fighting for the rights of fired workers.

“We have no place to retreat to, no place to go. It will be a hard and painful road, but we will keep fighting until justice is realized together with our colleagues.”

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