(LEAD) KBS unionists launch strike to demand CEO's resignation
SEOUL, May 29 (Yonhap) -- Two labor unions of top broadcaster KBS began a full-scale strike early Thursday after the KBS board delayed a vote on ousting the company president, raising fears over a continued disruption of its broadcasting service.
Labeling the labor action an illegal strike, the company vowed to deal sternly with workers participating in the walkout.
Journalists of state-funded KBS have been boycotting news production since May 19, demanding that company president Gil Hwan-young resign for allegedly interfering in news reporting in favor of the government.
The unions had threatened to walk out of their jobs unless the board passes a motion from four opposition members to sack the president during Wednesday's meeting.
After nearly nine hours of debate, the 11-member board failed to reach a conclusion on whether to vote on the proposal that day and decided to meet again on June 5 to discuss the matter.
"We decided to postpone the voting to June 5," Jo Jun-sang, one of the four members representing the main opposition party, told reporters.
The postponement prompted the KBS unions to push ahead with the threatened strike at 5 a.m. Thursday.
The unions have some 2,500 members, mostly engineers and managerial workers, and 1,200 members comprising mainly reporters and producers, respectively.
It marks the first joint strike by the two unions since the launch of the second union in 2010.
Gil has been under fire since Kim Si-gon, former chief of KBS news, claimed recently that Gil yielded to presidential office pressure to produce news reports favorable to the Park Geun-hye administration, especially during coverage of last month's ferry disaster.
Gil has denied the allegations, saying that he has no plans to step down.
Unionists say that Gil's alleged interference has undermined the fairness and autonomy of broadcast journalism.
Defining the action as an illegal strike that has nothing to do with labor conditions, the management pledged "no tolerance" against striking workers.
"We make it clear that there can be no concession or tolerance for illegal behavior," the broadcaster said in a statement released hours after the strike began. "We once again warn that participants will face disciplinary measures for violating company rules as well as civil and criminal suits for their illegal behaviors."