Bamboo spears make return in labor-police clash

Bamboo spears have made a comeback in protests in one year, leading to a bloody clash between unionized workers and police.

Some 1,100 employees of Yoosung Enterprise, an auto parts maker in South Chungcheong Province, and 1,500 riot police confronted each other at 9 p.m. Wednesday. A combined 108 policemen and 18 workers were hospitalized.

The clash occurred when union members who finished a candlelight vigil near an underpass linked to the factory moved toward the company, a site for demonstration. Police then blocked the march because of fears over a scuffle between security guards at the entrance and workers.

As some 800 construction and metal union members based in the Chungcheong provinces who participated in the general strike of construction union workers in Seoul joined the protest, the clash grew bigger.

The unionized workers used bamboo and wooden sticks and iron pipes to resist and police confronted them with shields and water cannons mixed with tear gas. A police source said, “We took 35 bamboo and 25 wooden sticks, 13 iron pipes, and 11 fire extinguishers from union members.”

The union said in response, “We didn`t bring iron pipes and instead simply picked up the ones the company’s security guards were using. About 20 unionized workers are in the hospital due to injury.”

Police will search for the masterminds of the violent protest and impose heavy punishment.

“Yoosung’s union members along with another group of people wielded bamboo sticks and iron pipes when they illegally tried to enter the factory, resulting in significant damage to police,” said Kim Gi-yong, the chief of the Chungnam Police Agency, in a news conference.

“We will find those who used bamboo sticks, used violence, and masterminded the violent protest and punish them.”

Woosung’s Asan factory is operating at 85 percent of capacity with the help of 80 union members and managerial staff but the confrontation between management and labor is interfering in the production of complete products and securing of raw materials.

The company wants a selective return of workers, saying, “If union members fully return to the company as demanded by the union, they will likely occupy the production facility again and go on strike.”
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