Seoul to Crack Down on 'Radical Leftists'

August 28, 1987|MARK FINEMAN | Times Staff Writer

SEOUL, South Korea — The government announced a massive crackdown Thursday on "radical leftist forces" it said have infiltrated hundreds of South Korea's strike-bound factories and college campuses in a plot to overthrow President Chun Doo Hwan's regime before presidential elections are held later this year.

"We are now standing at a grave crossroads," Prime Minister Kim Chung Yul said in announcing the government's renewed hard-line stand against dissidents. He spoke after an emergency Cabinet meeting on the eve of a planned protest for a laborer killed last Saturday by a police tear-gas grenade.

"The voice of seditious, subversive forces is growing, while that of sound conservative groups is diminishing," he said. "The leftist forces will not be allowed to find a toehold in this society."

He offered no evidence to support his charge of a plot, except to say that leftist demonstrators have been chanting, "Let us march along the road of revolution!"

But Justice Minister Chung Hae Chang said that he is preparing charges against 60 subversives he said were arrested while inciting workers to take part in the illegal strikes and slowdowns that have paralyzed key South Korean industries in recent weeks.

Chung said that subversive documents confiscated in police raids indicate that the dissidents will undertake a violent campaign in late September, using worker and student protesters as a shield.

Prime Minister Kim warned that if the disorder continues it will jeopardize President Chun's policy of democratic reforms, which was announced June 29 amid anti-government rioting.

Several political analysts said they view the government's return to the sort of hard-line rhetoric it used before the June 29 announcement as a warning to student leaders who plan to join the labor protests after they return to the universities on Sept. 1.

Other government warnings issued Thursday were more subtle. The Ministry of Trade and Industry, assessing the damage already done to the South Korean economy, said the strikes, which have broken out at the rate of 40 a day since June 29, have cost South Korea nearly $1 billion in lost production and $266 million in lost exports. The hardest-hit industries are automobiles, shipbuilding and electronics, the ministry said.

600 Strikes Going On

More than 600 strikes are still in progress, according to the Labor Ministry, among them work stoppages in several industrial complexes that have been commandeered by workers. At many plants in these complexes, laborers have placed their own guards at the gates and prevented management personnel from entering.

Daewoo Motors was forced to shut down all four of its plants Thursday after 160 dissident workers seized the administration building in Inchon.

Throughout Inchon and the industrial district of Seoul, dozens of metal-plating mills, electronics factories and textile mills were closed, many of them patrolled by club-wielding workers and covered with graffiti calling for increased wages and workers' rights.

The most dramatic and potentially explosive of the employee takeovers was at a shipyard owned by the Daewoo conglomerate on Koje Island, off Pusan, where a 21-year-old shipyard worker, Lee Suk Kyu, was killed Saturday by a police tear-gas grenade.

Three weeks ago, the entire facility was taken over by longshoremen at the yard, where the company now concedes that for years stevedores have been underpaid and subjected to dangerous working conditions.

Lee was fatally injured during a demonstration outside the shipyard. Co-workers stood watch over his body in the company hospital for several days, delaying his funeral while they bargained with the company for higher wages.

Faced with growing nationwide support for the workers and losses totaling $5 million a day, Daewoo agreed to a 23% wage rise.

After signing the agreement, Daewoo chairman Kim Woo Choong went to a makeshift altar in the shipyard's soccer field, where Lee's coffin was to be placed for this morning's funeral ceremony, and lit a stick of incense in a prayer for labor peace.

Mark Fineman wrote this story before returning to Manila, where he is The Times' bureau chief.

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