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South Korea braces for major strike on Wednesday

Written by: Staff
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SEOUL, Nov 21 (Reuters) A major South Korean labour group has called for a nationwide strike tomorrow, aiming to bring hundreds of thousands of workers onto the streets to protest over labour laws and a planned trade deal, organisers said today.

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), one of the country's biggest umbrella labour groups with 800,000 members, said it expects 200,000 people to jam Seoul and other cities.

Typically, crowds are often far below initial projections, but can still be large enough to snarl traffic and sometimes spill over to rail and transport workers, slowing commerce.

''The government has chosen to ignore our voices of concern.

Therefore, we believe we have no alternative but to proceed with our plan to launch a fully-fledged strike,'' the group said in a statement.

The KCTU is seeking laws to protect non-unionised labour, a stop to South Korea-US talks on a bilateral free trade deal and reform of occupational safety legislation.

The main strikers are likely to come from the automobile, steel and chemical industries, organisers said.

The KCTU had a warning strike last week in front of parliament, where several thousand members called on the government to revamp labour laws.

Public sympathy for large labour movements has been waning since the strikes of a generation ago when unions took to the streets against authoritarian governments.

Many in the country now see them as slowing productivity with frequent strikes, making the economy less competitive than Asian rivals.

REUTERS SB BST1255

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