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New president told to solve labor issues

Bishops say problems are at crisis level

New president told to solve labor issues
Father Vincent Jang Dong-hun hands a statement to Chung Ik-hoon of the presidential transition committee.
John Choi, Seoul

February 19, 2013

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Resolving lingering labor disputes should be the first priority for incoming President Juliana Park Geun-hye, a group of bishops said on Tuesday at a press conference outside the presidential transition committee office in Seoul. 

The members of the Bishops’ Conference of Korea’s Committee for Justice and Peace said the country continues to face numerous worker disputes and drew attention to a recent spate of suicides among labor leaders.

Chief among labor issues are unfair layoffs, employment discrimination and political pressure on labor activists, the bishops said. 

Father Vincent Jang Dong-hun, secretary of the committee, said that president-elect Park had promised during her campaign to investigate the labor dispute at Ssangyong Motors. 

Workers at Ssangyong say the company fabricated a 500 billion won (US$467 million) deficit to justify the layoffs of more than 2,500 employees.

Bishop Matthias Ri Iong-hoon of Suwon, president of the committee, said “after the presidential election on December 19, seven labor activists have committed suicide out of despair that under Park’s leadership their disputes would not be resolved” in a statement read at the press conference by Father Jang.

“What drove them to despair were capitalists that regard workers as mere tolls for profit, an ignorant and irresponsible government, and the silence and inhospitality of society,” he continued in the statement.

The statement was later submitted to the presidential transition team. 

“We will consider the opinion of the Catholic Church in the next government’s policies,” said Chung Ik-hoon, an official from the transition team and director of the Proposal Center for People's Happiness.

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