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Koreans Demand Shorter Work Hours

November 21, 1999

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ About 20,000 workers gathered at a public park in Seoul on Sunday, demanding a shorter workweek and the suspension of a restructuring plan that could result in mass layoffs.

Some 2,000 of the workers marched through Seoul, calling for more labor rights and freedom.

``Lower statutory working hours,″ workers shouted as they marched along a street in southern Seoul, waving blue, red and white labor union flags. Traffic was backed up for several hours. There were no reports of clashes with police.

Among other things, the workers demanded that labor laws be revised to cut the workweek from 44 to 40 hours. They also want the government to scrap plans to restructure and privatize state-run power, gas and financial corporations.

Unemployment has been one of the most serious problems facing South Korea. Thousands of financially weak companies have collapsed since the nation was forced to bail out its sinking economy with the help of the International Monetary Fund in late 1997.

The unemployment rate tumbled this year from 8.6 percent in February to 4.8 percent in September, but unions fear the restructuring plan could send it soaring again.

The Federation of Korean Trade Unions organized Sunday’s rally.

Update hourly