1996–97 strikes in South Korea

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In December 1996 and January 1997, South Korea experienced the largest organized strike in its history, when workers in the automotive and shipbuilding industries refused to work in protest against a law which was to make firing employees easier for employers and curtail labor organizing rights.

Among other things, the Korean government intended to postpone the legal recognition of the recently established Korean Confederation of Trade Unions until the year 2000. The officially recognized Federation of Korean Trade Unions then called upon its 1.2 million members to go on strike on December 26. This was its first call for a general strike since the union's founding in 1962.[1]

After a single day, the strikes started spreading to other sectors including hospitals.[2] On December 28, South Korean riot police turned violent against the strikers, using tear gas to dispel crowds. Strikers responded by throwing bricks.[3]

In late January 1997, the strike ended after the labor laws were repealed by the government.[4]


  1. ^ Korea: Trainees and Strike. Migration News 4(4), February 1997. URL visited on December 18, 2006.
  2. ^ Labor unrest escalates in South Korea. CNN.com, December 27, 1996. URL visited on December 18, 2006.
  3. ^ South Korea labor strike turns violent. CNN.com, December 28, 1996. URL visited on December 18, 2006.
  4. ^ Hagen Koo (2000). The dilemmas of empowered labor in Korea: Korean workers in the face of global capitalism. Asian Survey 40(2):227-250.