South Korean opposition steps up criticism of rail reorganisation plan

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 December, 2013, 2:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 December, 2013, 2:00am


South Korean opposition lawmakers yesterday stepped up criticism of the government's plan to reorganise the state railway, a day after a mass rally to protest against feared layoffs.

The government said this month it planned to spin off part of state-run Korea Railway (Korail) and allow other state-run firms to buy shares.

It said the move was aimed at revitalising the debt-ridden railway that has suffered losses. Thousands of railway workers including train drivers suspect the move is a prelude to a privatisation that would entail layoffs and pay cuts. They have been on partial strike since December 9.

At least 20,000 workers, activists and supporters staged a rally in central Seoul on Saturday, demanding the government scrap the plan.

The rally, the biggest in the country this year, was staged amid high security, with some 13,000 police officers involved. Sul Hoon, a lawmaker of the opposition Democratic Party, slammed President Park Geun-hye for pushing ahead with the reorganisation plan.

"The latest railway crisis will never be resolved by merely cracking down [on workers on strike]," Sul said in a meeting with Korail union members and dozens of other Democratic Party lawmakers yesterday.

Some 30 union leaders have been accused of the offence of disrupting business and are being sought by police.