South Korea Strikes March On

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SEOUL, South Korea: Hardly dampened by a holiday break, strikes in South Korea continued Tuesday--and may even be broadening. Ignoring President Kim Young-sam's plea for labor peace, broadcasting employees at the giant state-run KBS and three other private TV and radio stations walked out Tuesday. They were joined by some 3,000 nurses and other unionized workers at 24 hospitals who rejoined the protests after ending their first round of walkouts a week ago. The outlawed Confederation of Trade Unions, which is organizing the protests, continues to disagree with the Labor Ministry on walkout totals. The Confederation, which claims a membership of 500,000, said 230,000 workers at 210 companies were taking part in the protest Tuesday and predicted the number would increase. But the Labor Ministry said only 65,000 workers at 59 work sites stayed away from work, and officials predicted once again that the protests would begin to subside later this week for lack of public support. In a news conference Tuesday, Kim Young-sam continued to call upon workers--and their unions--to trade some cherished job security for a more competitive South Korea. "The revision of labor laws . . . will provide a significant impetus for improved competitiveness," the president said. "Those with whom the workers and firms should be competing are their foreign counterparts." Thirteen days of strikes have already cost the South Korean economy $1.4 billion in lost production. And while the idled auto and shipbuilding industries still account for the bulk of the losses, angry unions clearly hope that widening the scope of the protests will give them the leverage--and longevity--they need to prevail.