Health Workers Join S. Korea Strike

From Associated Press

Several thousand nurses and other workers walked off their jobs at eight hospitals Wednesday, joining a strike by South Korean airline, chemical and metal workers.

As the new workers joined the strike, however, 1,600 pilots at Korean Air ended their two-day walkout. The nation's other airline, Asiana, remained strikebound.

The workers were protesting President Kim Dae Jung's corporate reform programs, which workers blame for causing mass layoffs. The government called the strikes illegal.

When the job actions by the airlines and the metal and chemical industries began Tuesday, thousands of strikers held protests in Seoul and 13 other cities.

The Korean Air walkout ended after the company agreed to freeze hiring of foreign pilots this year and gradually reduce their numbers, while pilots backed off a demand for immediate wage increases.

"Korean Air will do its best to return to normal operations by the afternoon of Thursday," said a joint statement from management and the pilots union.

The strike had forced Korean Air and Asiana Airlines to cancel more than half their scheduled flights for a second day Wednesday.

The protests were part of a broader strike called by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, an umbrella labor group, to press demands for wage increases and better employment conditions. The group, which has launched many violent protests in the past, has urged other industries to join the strike.

The confederation claimed Wednesday that 42,000 people at 69 workplaces were taking part in the current strike. The government estimated the number at 16,000 workers at 31 facilities.

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