KBS workers go on strike

Unionized workers of KBS rally at the company’s headquarters in Yeouido, Seoul, Monday, before starting a strike today. They call for management to step down and plan to form an alliance with the MBC union which has been staging a walkout since Jan. 30.

Unionized workers of KBS, the nation’s largest broadcaster, have voted to go on strike from 5 a.m. Tuesday, joining journalists of MBC who walked out more than a month ago.

Like the union of MBC, KBS journalists and other staff are calling for the resignation of the company president who has allegedly censored coverage critical of President Lee Myung-bak.

Of the unionized workers, 89 percent voted in favor of the strike, Monday.

“We exist to monitor the government and to cover the news based on the truth for the benefit of the people,” the union said in a statement. “Reporters, producers and engineers will strike and the struggle will continue until company President Kim In-kyu steps down.”

The union has accused Kim of having forced them to produce politically-biased coverage of President Lee who appointed him head of KBS in November 2009.

On top of KBS and MBC, the union of YTN, a cable news channel, will also strike from Thursday. The union is also demanding management step down and the reinstatement of workers who have been fired.

The conflict between the union and management of MBC has been escalating, with 165 journalists having decided to tender their resignations to protest the firing of the leader of the reporters’ union last Wednesday.

The walkout at MBC began on Jan. 30 with about 570 reporters and other journalists calling for company president, Kim Jae-chul, to step down. The union claimed the 59-year-old CEO censored coverage critical of Lee who appointed him last year.

The prolonged strike has disrupted news and other programs.

Management has called the strike illegal and urged the workers to refrain from participating, with threats that “those who take part will be punished.”

It has accused 16 of the strikers for “impeding the corporation’s business,” and fired Park Sung-ho, the leader of the MBC reporters’ union.

The unionized workers of KBS, MBC, and YTN said they will join hands to fight until their demands are met.

The union at Yonhap News Agency, a news wire service network, has also decided to go on strike without indicating when this will be. <Korea Times/Yi Whan-woo>

news@theasian.asia

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