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The government’s use of the word `scourge’ in describing domestic labor movements has angered labor activists.

In an English report that the government submitted to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) early this month explaining the labor situation in Korea, the government used the emotionally-loaded word ``scourge’’ in describing labor union movements.

After explaining how South Korea’s working conditions have improved, the report said, ``However, one scourge on this overall positive picture in labor relations is the continually excessive labor movements conducted by some labor organizations such as the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), who refuse dialogue or compromise, and instead pursue escalating violent measures to obtain complete acquiescence on the part of the government.’’

It also went on to say that ``such activities remain a major impediment to the continued development of labor-management relations in Korea.’’

KCTU and Rep. Dan Byung-ho of the Labor Democratic Party criticized the government saying that such use of the word ``scourge’’ and the description of labor organizations as violent and deterrent demonstrate the government’s biased view and prejudice toward labor organizations.

``It clearly shows that the government is narrow-minded and intolerant of activities of labor organizations,’’ said Dan.

Regarding the criticism, Labor Minister Lee Sang-soo admitted that some of the words in the report were too extreme and improper for use in an official document. However, the Ministry of Labor at the same time said that the word ``scourge’’ in the sentence was used to imply ``worry’,’’ and not ``plague’’ or ``disaster’’ as labor organizations claim.

The government’s report was made in order to express its disagreement on the report made by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), the Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC) and a delegation of the Global Unions Federations (GUF) which recently conducted a fact-finding mission prior to the 14th International Labor Organizations( ILO) Asian Regional Meeting in Pusan.

Through the report, the ICFTU, TUAC, and GUF had urged the South Korean government to respect ILO’s core standards. They called for an immediate release the trade unionists detained and strongly condemned the violation of public servants' right to freedom of association, which includes a series of forced closures of many union offices in 2006. It also focused on the grave situation faced by construction workers, migrants and irregular workers, a category which represents the vast majority of the workforce.

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