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(LEAD) Police raid KORAIL union offices

2013/12/17 13:39

SEOUL, Dec. 17 (Yonhap) -- Police on Tuesday raided the offices of the state-run rail operator's labor union as part of their investigation into an ongoing strike by thousands of its members.

With a court-issued warrant, a team of 30 officers seized computer hard drives and confidential documents during the raid at the two offices of the union of Korea Railroad Corp. (KORAIL) in central Seoul, officers said.

More than 6,500 unionized KORAIL workers went on strike on Dec. 9 in protest against a government decision to set up a new rail operator that they claim is the first step toward privatization of the rail operator.

The KORAIL management then filed a charge against 190 union members for instigating the "illegal walkout," saying that their action caused huge financial losses.

"The raid was conducted after (courts) on Monday issued search warrants along with arrest warrants for 10 leaders of the KORAIL union," said a police officer close to the investigation.

On Monday, local courts approved the arrest warrants for the strike leaders for refusing to respond to summons by prosecutors.

Police said they are pursuing Kim Myung-hwan, the leader of the KORAIL union, while arrest warrants for four other leading members of the union were issued by district courts in provincial cities.

KORAIL workers have criticized the planned establishment of the affiliate, claiming that it is the first step toward privatizing the state-run company, which they say could result in massive layoffs and fare hikes.

The company has denied the claim, saying the new unit will be 41 percent and 59 percent owned by KORAIL and state-run investors, respectively, and that private firms will never be allowed to buy stakes in it.

The new service will run from Suseo-dong in southern Seoul to the southern provincial city of Busan. After several delays, it is expected to begin operations in 2016.

So far, a total of 7,608 striking workers have been removed from their positions for their participation in the walkout and will likely face disciplinary action, KORAIL said.

Subway services in Seoul and the surrounding areas in Gyeonggi Province were partially affected Tuesday as unionized rail workers continued their strike for the 11th day, KORAIL said.

The number of trains on subway line No. 3 that runs through Seoul were brought down by an average of around 20 percent, it said.

Commuters in Seoul are expected to experience more disruptions as a labor union of public corporation Seoul Metro, which operates Seoul subway lines No. 1 through 4, warned of pulling more workers out starting Wednesday morning.

Daily KTX services were reduced by 12 percent on Tuesday, and the operation of the normal-speed Mugunghwa trains were also somewhat affected, it added.

khj@yna.co.kr

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