Los Angeles rally backs South Korean workers’ struggle

Photos: Insook Lee

In Los Angeles Jan. 8, progressive Korean American groups and allies rallied in solidarity with the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) and against the U.S. military occupation of South Korea. The Harriet Tubman Center for Social Justice and the Socialist Unity Party were among the participating organizations. The following remarks were made by Korean American activist Peter Kim at the rally,

The KCTU, the largest trade union organization in South Korea, is organizing a major demonstration in Seoul on Jan. 15 under the slogan, “Let’s overthrow inequality through general unity with the people!” 

We are gathered here today as we did last October to support the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions’ unstoppable general strike. We are here again to endorse and support the Jan. 15 nationwide people’s rally hosted by the KCTU. 

The term of office of the Moon Jae In regime in South Korea is ending soon. Despite public opposition, this is the regime that just pardoned former President Park Geun Hye, allowing her  to receive security after his term ends. 

When he became president, Moon Jae In said he would create an era of zero temporary workers, but the numbers of temporary workers have increased while he’s been in office. During his campaign he promised to raise the minimum wage to $8.30, but after five years it’s still only $7.60. With inflation, even $10 isn’t enough. Hard-working Koreans are suffering with low wages, long work hours and dangerous working conditions. They deserve better!

The chaebol [corporate monopolies] who committed these crimes are free and workers who gather to protest are arrested for violating COVID-19 prevention laws. The chaebol’s in-house fund is about $100 billion, but many workers and some young people end up wandering the streets due to low wages, soaring housing prices and unemployment.

There are too many broken promises from the Moon Jae In government. Using COVID-19 prevention as an excuse to lockdown the country, he ended up putting small businesses out of business and blocking the workers’ right to protest and assemble, causing many to lose not only their jobs but their livelihood.  

Moon Jae In also talked about the peace process with North Korea, but did nothing to move those talks forward. Instead he spent an astronomical amount of money to import U.S. military weapons and support the U.S. military bases in Korea. He has not kept to his word in the last five years.

Sadly, there is no better option in the upcoming 2022 presidential election. Nobody talks about the workers and the welfare of the country, only about tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations.

Korean workers have had the highest suicide rate in the world for the past 16 years. The national birth rate is the lowest among 198 countries. The OECD ranks Korea second in the world in temporary workers, fourth in inequality and fifth in the youth unemployment rate. This is the reality of the world’s 10th largest economy. 

For all of these reasons, workers and young people, we must unite and fight. Nothing will change if we don’t stand up to the systematic inequality in South Korea. Let’s organize for the struggling workers and create change. Let’s unite with the KCTU’s rally on Jan. 15, 2022.