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(LEAD) Striking KCTU unionists take to streets, some clash with police

All News 15:25 October 20, 2021

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; UPDATES with information in paras 1-6; CHANGES photos)

SEOUL, Oct. 20 (Yonhap) -- Unionists of a militant umbrella labor organization took to the streets in central Seoul on Wednesday as part of a one-day general strike, some of them clashing with police trying to block their march.

The protesters affiliated with the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) poured onto the streets in downtown en masse around 1:30 p.m. and began marching toward Seodaemun Station, holding flags and banners calling for labor rights.

Some of them scuffled with police trying to prevent them from moving to the rally site.

Police mobilized about 12,000 personnel and set up fences and bus walls in central Seoul to prevent the rally.

The exact number of participants in the rally was not available, though about 25,000-30,000 unionists were expected to join the protest in downtown Seoul, according to the KCTU.

The KCTU had planned to stage large-scale protest rallies in 14 cities and provinces across the country, including Seoul and Busan, as part of the strike involving about 500,000, or roughly half of its 1.1 million members, to bring labor issues to the fore in the runup to the 2022 presidential election.

But the actual number of strike participants is expected to be much smaller.

Members of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, the more militant of South Korea's two umbrella labor organizations, stages a rally in downtown Seoul on Oct. 20, 2021, to call for improvement in labor issues. (Yonhap)
Police try to prevent participants of a rally called by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, the more militant of South Korea's two umbrella labor organizations, from occupying a street in central Seoul on Oct. 20, 2021. (Yonhap)

The government and the police have warned of stern action against KCTU's upcoming rallies, saying the gatherings could hamper efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Under the current Level 4 social distancing rules imposed in Seoul and the greater capital area, all social rallies, except for essential corporate or official purposes, are prohibited due to infection concerns.

"We will disperse the crowd if any illegal acts happen during the event," Choi Kwan-ho, the chief of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, said Tuesday.

The KCTU said it will comply with the group's internal antivirus guidelines and put in efforts to finish the walkout in safety and peace.


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