Korea Telecom Co. workers occupy Seoul headquarters


SEOUL, AFP

Workers at South Korea’s state telephone company occupied part of their headquarters Monday in protest at the company’s plan to spin off loss-making services, officials said.

The protest came on the fifth day of a strike against a proposal by Korea Telecom Co. to shed its operator and automatic directory systems as part of a government-led restructuring of big state firms.

Some 600 operators staged a noisy sit-down protest on the first floor of the company’s main building in southern Seoul, a Korea Telecom spokesman said.

But the company’s directory systems remained operational, with striking workers being replaced by retirees.

The protest prompted the calling of an emergency meeting of the board of Korea Telecom, which is 58 percent state owned.

“The board of directors is scheduled to meet on Thursday to decide on spinning off and privatizing the unit,” the spokesman said.

Union leaders warned the company would face a bigger labor action if it pushes ahead with the restructuring.

“If the board of directors meeting approves the spin-off, we will wage an all-out struggle, including a general strike,” a union spokesman said.

Union leader Lee Dong-gol began a hunger strike as 10 other unionists, including six female workers, shaved their heads in protest Monday, calling for the firm to guarantee job security.

Korea Telecom’s management has insisted the company could not continue the directory services, which lost an estimated 154.9 billion won (US$119 million) in 2000.

The company on Monday reported its net profit fell 15.6 percent year-on-year to 337.9 billion won (US$260 million) for this year’s first quarter on investments in Internet services.

It said it had expanded its business in the fast-growing high-speed Internet services with the number of subscribers rising to 2.4 million at the end of March. from 1.73 million at the end of last December.