Journalists from the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) gather in the new KBS headquarters building in Seoul’s Yeoido neighborhood on Aug. 28 to announce the beginning of a strike. The journalists are hoping to force the resignation of KBS President
It is becoming more likely that workers at South Korea’s public broadcasters KBS and MBC will commence a general strike on Sept. 4. These workers are demanding the resignation of management and directors who they say have undermined the fairness and credibility of public broadcasting.
On Aug. 28, the two major unions at KBS announced the timing of their general strike. The KBS branch of the National Union of Mediaworkers, with more than 1,700 members, is planning to strike on Sept. 4, while the KBS Labor Union, with more than 2,000 members, will strike on Sept. 7. After voting for a general strike this past February, the two KBS labor unions carried out a general strike on Feb. 8 that lasted for one day. That general strike can be resumed as soon as each union’s emergency action committee chooses the date.
The two unions’ decision to resume the general strike comes as an increasing number of reporters and producers are boycotting the production of programming. The 295 members of the KBS Association of Reporters joined the production boycott on Aug. 28. 90% of regular reporters (not including those in management) are participating in the boycott, leaving just 15 regular reporters in the broadcasting bureau, the association said.
The National Journalists Association and the National Association of Video Journalists (which represent reporters in areas outside of Seoul) started participating in the production boycott and selective strikes in phases on Aug. 29, and the number of participants is expected to increase to more than 470 by Aug. 31. As of Aug. 30, KBS producers around the country will also stop working on programs. More than 850 producers are members of the KBS Producers’ Association, and the association estimates that more than 750 producers (not including executives) will join the production boycott.
At MBC, more than 350 reporters, producers, and news anchors have already joined the production boycott. The MBC branch of the National Union of Mediaworkers began voting on a general strike on Aug. 24, and on Aug. 28 they tentatively announced that 85% of members had already voted. The union is planning to wrap up voting at 6 pm on Aug. 29 and, presuming that the general strike is approved, to hold a rally on Aug. 30 to announce the date of the strike.
With both KBS and MBC management taking a hard line, the strike could continue for some time. On Aug. 28, KBS has said that “a strike would be illegal because it’s unrelated to working conditions.” On the same day, MBC stated that its employees had initiated the production boycott with the goal of bringing broadcasting under control of the administration of President Moon Jae-in. “MBC will defend the independence of broadcasting against political forces and labor unions,” the broadcaster said.
By Kim Hyo-sil, staff reporter
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