Deregulation fight continues

3 June 2002

Political infighting over the government's plans to deregulate the South Korean electricity sector continues to rage unabated.

Deputy prime minister Jim Nyum resigned over the issue. It has been suggested that he was forced to quit by the ruling Millennium Democratic Party (MDP) in a bid to court trades unions that are opposed to deregulation before South Korea's presidential election.

In March 2001, Kepco's CEO left office. Political sources said he was sacked to placate striking workers. For six weeks, workers opposed to power market deregulation at Kepco's non-nuclear operations had taken industrial action, forcing management to take protective measures to ensure that the power reactors which generate 40% of South Korea's electricity were kept operating without a hitch and to prepare for possible interruption of scheduled commissioning of Yonggwang 5. Company sources said that management had coaxed workers at Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) not to join a sympathy strike in support of workers at fossil-fuelled plants.

The nuclear workers union has agreed in principle not to go on strike to oppose deregulation. In practice, there may be another strike. Union leaders have claimed that the deal it made with Kepco was a one-off deal, and that the next time, workers could again go on strike if they fear that the workforce may be cut.

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