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S. Korea Workers Urged to Avoid Violence in Disputes : Appeal Made by Ruling and Opposition Parties After 297 Strikers Are Arrested at Shipyard and Auto Plant

September 05, 1987|DAVID HOLLEY | Times Staff Writer

SEOUL, South Korea — The ruling and opposition parties called on workers Friday to avoid violence in labor disputes, and at least some workers said they would comply.

The bipartisan appeal was issued after 297 workers were arrested at a shipyard in Ulsan and an auto plant in Inchon, where strikers had occupied buildings and destroyed property.

Leaders of the striking shipyard workers promised to refrain from further violence, but there was no word from the auto workers.

Students, Police Clash

In Seoul, meanwhile, students at Yonsei University touched off a two-hour clash by attacking riot policemen outside the main gate of the campus with bamboo and wooden poles.

The students were demanding the release of the student body president, who was arrested last month. About 1,000 of them turned out for the demonstration and perhaps 150 were involved in the fighting.

They hurled rocks and hundreds of homemade gasoline bombs, and the policemen fired back barrages of tear-gas canisters. Smaller battles took place at two other gates of the campus.

Taxi Drivers Demonstrate

About 3,000 striking Seoul taxi drivers also demonstrated Friday, and they too were dispersed by riot policemen with the help of tear gas.

Early Friday morning, police stormed the Ulsan shipyard of Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. and arrested 162 of the thousands of striking workers who had occupied the grounds, damaged company buildings and set fire to vehicles.

Later in the day, strike leaders vowed to continue the protest but without violence. They issued a statement that said, "We will not hold street demonstrations or resort to violence, and we apologize for the inconvenience so far caused to citizens because of our actions."

About 20,000 Hyundai workers have been on strike demanding higher wages.

At the Daewoo Motor Co. plant in Inchon, management had asked the police to intervene and rout striking workers who had occupied an administration building. About 3,000 riot policemen moved in before dawn, taking control of the plant and arresting 135 workers. A police spokesman said that eight injured workers were hospitalized.

Daewoo Motor Co. is a joint venture of the Daewoo Group and General Motors.

Vows Arrests for Violence

The minister of home affairs, Chung Kwan Yong, said the government is prepared to use the police in response to any further strike violence.

"The government will arrest and severely punish those who carry out violent activities such as arson, destruction of property and hostage-taking," Chung said.

The ruling Democratic Justice Party said in a statement: "The government should no longer leave the labor disputes unchecked. It is required to exert more active mediation efforts and to take all necessary steps to ensure social stability and order."

The opposition Reunification Democratic Party said that although the strikers' demands are justified, violence cannot be justified because it will not help the workers achieve their goals and could threaten the democratization process.

In the incident at Yonsei University, the students were pressing a campaign to bring down the government of President Chun Doo Hwan.

Both Sides Avoid Injury

Despite the violent appearance of the clash, neither students nor policemen seemed intent on harming each other. The gasoline-filled soda bottles thrown by the students posed little threat to the policemen, who were clad in protective gear, and the policemen were careful to fire their tear-gas canisters high in the air.

The police were not so careful in June, when a Yonsei student was struck in the head by a tear-gas canister fired directly into a group of demonstrators. The student, Lee Han Yol, died of his injuries, and the incident provided a rallying point for the massive demonstrations that forced the government to promise democratic reforms.

As dusk fell Friday, the students broke off their attack, sang a song and moved back from the gate. One of the leaders called out to the police, "You guys can go home now." Within moments, the policemen were gone.

Specifically, the students were demanding the release of Woo Sang Ho, the student body president, who was arrested last month after the New York Times published an interview with him. In it he was quoted as likening "fascism in Korea" to Nazism in Germany under Adolf Hitler, and as saying that "violence against Nazis was legitimate."

Woo's fate was among the key issues discussed Wednesday by opposition leader Kim Young Sam, president of the Reunification Democratic Party, and Roh Tae Woo, president of the ruling Democratic Justice Party.

Radical Activities Cited

In their discussions, according to a partial transcript published in the Korea Herald, Roh said it was not just because of the article in the New York Times that Woo was arrested.

"As far as I know," Roh said, "he was arrested for masterminding radical anti-government rallies and engaging in pro-Communist activities."

Roh, who is his party's nominee for president in the election planned for mid-December, said the government has released 1,124 people since June 29 and "will exert efforts to release more of the detainees."

He added, however, that "it is difficult to set free those who were imprisoned for destructive activities, or arson, or those who negate the fundamental system of the republic."

The opposition contends that there are about 400 political prisoners.

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