The nation's two umbrella labor groups are split about the free trade agreement with the United States.
At a press conference on May 2, officials from the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) talked about a joint plan to stop the U.S.-Korea FTA.
South Korea and the U.S. announced in early April that they reached an agreement on the FTA talks between the two countires. The FTA deal has yet to be approved by the two country's congress respectively before going into effect.
When they were about to read a joint statement, however, Woo Mun-sook, the KCTU spokesperson, urgently requested the reporters to remove the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU) from the list of organizations participating in the statement.
Until now the two umbrella labor unions have cooperated through the ad hoc Korean Alliance Against the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement (FTA). However, once the FTA negotiations were over, the FKTU has declared that it would take a "realistic approach." Even when the negotiations were over, the FKTU employed what it called a "pragmatic" strategy to actively involve itself in the negotiation process rather than urging the government to just halt the talks.
The differences could be seen in speeches made at the two groups' separate May Day events. KCTU chairman Lee Seok-haeng called for the agreement to be nullified, while FKTU chairman Lee Yong-deuk proposed the formation of a "pan-Korean body" to respond to the FTA.
KCTU is against the FTA altogether. FKTU has taken the position that the agreement needs "followup" measures.
"Our basic position is that we urgently need to provide support for sectors which will directly suffer a heavy blow instead of clinging to impractical struggle tactics" said Lee of the KCTU.
In contrast, the FKTU chairman said, "Korea is expected to suffer serious damage, to the degree it will have to change more than 100 provisions of its laws. Therefore, this is not a question to be solved by simply preparing follow-up measures.''