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World 2019.10.12

Railway services across South Korea affected as 72-hour strike begins

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Railway services across South Korea are expected to be affected Friday and throughout the weekend as workers began a 72-hour strike demanding better working conditions, Yonhap News Agency reported.

Around 20 to 60 per cent of passenger and cargo train services are forecast to be affected by the labour action, according to the Korea Railroad Corp (KORAIL) and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. Intercity subway operations will be reduced to 88.1 per cent of normal operations, while high-speed train services and the KTX bullet train will operate at 81.1 per cent and 72.4 per cent of the normal level, respectively. Around 60 per cent of the Saemaeul and Mugunghwa trains will be in operation, while cargo train operations will be most affected, with only 36.8 per cent in service.

The Suseo High Speed Rail (SRT), embarking from Suseo Station in southern Seoul and arriving at the southeastern port city of Busan or the southwestern port city of Mokpo, will be unaffected. The transportation ministry and KORAIL plan to add more trains to intercity subways and KTX trains to minimise the fallout from the service disruption. It also plans to advise passengers to use buses for affected routes and prioritize exports and imports for cargo operations.

“We will refund all services that have been stalled due to the strike. Please check in advance whether the train you are using will be operating,” a KORAIL official said. The labour strike, which will run for 72 hours from 9 am Friday to 9 am Monday, is the first strike in three years following a 74-day strike between September and December 2016.

The 19,000-member Korean Railway Workers’ Union is demanding that KORAIL normalise allowances and raise pay by 4 per cent. They are also calling for the employment of new employees to shorten working hours for current workers. The unionised workers decided to strike in early September after 12 rounds of high-level and working-level talks that started in May fell through.

The union said they will launch another strike in November if their demands are not met.

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