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(2nd LD) Yoon vows to root out violence at construction sites within his term

All News 16:01 February 21, 2023

(ATTN: UPDATES with presidential office's press release; CHANGES headline; TRIMS)
By Lee Haye-ah

SEOUL, Feb. 21 (Yonhap) -- President Yoon Suk Yeol vowed Tuesday to root out extortion and violence at construction sites within his term, saying their negative consequences are being passed on to the people and the state would not deserve its name if it left them unattended.

Yoon made the remarks during a Cabinet meeting and later while receiving a separate briefing on violence at construction sites from Land Minister Won Hee-ryong, Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon, National Police Agency Commissioner General Yoon Hee-keun and Vice Labor Minister Kwon Gi-seob.

"I will make sure to root out extortion and violent actions at construction sites within my term," he said during the briefing, instructing the prosecution, police, land and labor ministries to work together to firmly clamp down on such "organized illegal practices," according to his office.

President Yoon Suk Yeol (2nd from L) speaks during a Cabinet meeting at the presidential office in Seoul on Feb. 21, 2023. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

President Yoon Suk Yeol (2nd from L) speaks during a Cabinet meeting at the presidential office in Seoul on Feb. 21, 2023. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

Eradicating illegal practices at construction sites has been a central part of labor reform, one of the Yoon administration's top three areas of reform along with education and pensions, the presidential office said.

Since late last year, the land ministry has run a designated team to respond to violence at construction sites while the police have operated a 200-day special crackdown period, it added.

The government's hard-line stance comes as construction unions affiliated with the country's two major umbrella labor organizations -- the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions and the Federation of Korean Trade Unions -- have been accused of coercing employers to hire their union members for construction jobs.

"Militant labor unions with vested rights continue to overtly carry out illegal actions at construction sites, such as demanding money and goods, forcing hiring and obstructing construction," Yoon said during the Cabinet meeting.

"As a result, workers are losing their jobs and construction is being poorly done. The damage is being passed on to the people, with delays in the opening of new elementary schools and move-ins to new apartments," he said.

Yoon called on public organizations and the private sector to join the government in rooting out illegal activities.

"If we see violence and illegal action but do nothing about it, we cannot be called a state," he said. "We must carry out a special inspection and crackdown on illegal activities, and when illegal activities are found, take stern action, according to the law."

Yoon's remarks came a day after he warned of similar stern action against labor unions that refuse to disclose their account books.

During the Cabinet meeting, he reiterated his call for accounting transparency at labor unions, describing it as the starting point for labor reform.

"Continuing to provide financial support to labor unions that refuse to be transparent with accounting will be something the people paying precious taxes will have a hard time accepting," he said, citing data that the two umbrella unions received 152.1 billion won (US$117.4 million) in subsidies from the labor ministry and regional governments between 2018 and 2022.

Yoon urged the labor ministry and other relevant ministries to speedily push legislation supporting labor reforms.

Yoon also recognized the South Korean rescue workers who recently returned from Turkey after aiding post-earthquake efforts, saying they deserve to be praised and encouraged.

He asked the relevant ministries to ensure Turkey continues to receive systematic and effective assistance.


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