Skip to main content

Korean Metro workers united to fight back the government in era of crises

Call for sustainable metro for workers and people

Today, decades of the economic crisis, global pandemic crisis and intensified climate crisis are intertwined. These crises reveals conflicting contradictions of the system.

I would like to convey, in this circumstance, my solidarity greeting for whom are fighting for an alternative and better life of working people, particularly for transport workers in the world and it’s representative, International Transport Workers’ Federation(ITF) and other organisations on behalf of the Korean Rail and Metro Unions’ council (KRMU)

The pandemic of Co-vid 19 has been continuing for more than 2 years, and the life of ordinary people including workers in public sector are getting harsher. This is caused by the nature of the system and the incompetence of the ruling elites. Not surprisingly, the core of the situation is very similar or even same in spite of different conditions, contexts and details. The situation of today’s Korea can be the situation of yesterday or tomorrow of Japan, USA, Europe, Asia and elsewhere.

2021 August is very hot in Korea and the 6 big cities’ metro workers are determined to build joint struggle. Last July, the 6 unions have organised the joint conference and decided to call strike ballot for the joint collective action. The ballots will be finalised on 20th of August and the unions leaders are appealing for overwhelm approval.

Transport workers and working people in the world! the Korean metro workers struggles are reflecting both condition of Korean in particular and the one of the global system in general. The Korean public metro operators face serious deficit. The metro systems provide transportation for city workers and function like blood vessels for the cities. Therefore, it is important to keep price affordable for the ordinary workers and their families, and it is also important to provide free transportation for the marginalised people as a social welfare. And the Korean workers’ have been fighting to maintain this principle.

However, the Korean government has been insisting the market principle and has never provided the budget for the cost. The public companies have to bear all the burden and the public operators have cut jobs making excuse of the deficit whenever crisis has come.

Currently, the size of the deficits of them has been increasing dramatically since the decrease of the passengers because of the coronavirus and government’s measures (eg, social distance), the increase of the cost for the virus preventive measures while the maintenance cost is continuously paid for safety. The deficit of the 6 operators for 2020 reached 15.5billIon US$. For the Seoul metro transit only, the deficit was over 8.7billion US$ and it is more than the law allowed.

What should be done and how can we make solution? We believe the government must take the responsibility for the deficit. The ordinary people and workers who are passengers and work for the transportation do not have responsibility. However, the government forced structural adjustment under the name of self-measures and the Seoul metro rail company has announced to cut 1,971 jobs. This job cut will spread to the other operators in other cities sooner or later.

The job cut cannot make situation better, let alone solving the problem. The size of the deficit is far more than the saving by the cut. As the lessons that the Korean metro workers have learnt from the fighting for more than 20 years against the government’s adjustment plans, show us, each every time of those crises, the government denounces workers blaming for being selfish and moral hazard, and more or less it has succeeded to cut the jobs. And then the government and the companies have totally failed to solve the deficit problem and then attack workers again with the failed policy.

Now, We do not accept their attack, and we will fight back. Otherwise, the government will push through outsourcing, privatisation, price hike, cut welfare and so on and so forth. We know that to fight for keeping our employments and working conditions is to also protect the interest of the ordinary working peoples.

Therefore transport workers and working people in the world! I would like to appeal your support and solidarity for our struggle.
August 23, We will announce the result of the strike ballot and 22,000 metro workers of the country will demand that the Korean government must take the responsibility.

Please send the solidarity messages and video clips, so we can put your name when we make the announcement on that day.
August 26, We will make joint campaign at the main stations in the 6 cities. Please send protest letter to Korean authority in your country or organise solidarity actions.

Most of all, if you organize and spread your own struggle with your own demands in your local and work place and send us the story or news, this would be the best solidarity. This will be the most effective and powerful solidarity message for us.

Collecting and sharing the news of the different struggle at the different places, I hope someday we can have international online forum for learning each other.

Let’s make a better way for the future public transportation by the international solidarity of the transport workers in the world.
In international solidarity

Dae-hun, Kim
President of the Korea Rail and Metro Unions’ council

Please send your solidarity video or/ and letter to