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Lim Seong-kyu, the newly elected president of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU, Minju Nochong), said Thursday that the KCTU would “get itself down closer to the side of the socially disadvantaged and wage a labor movement grounded by people with less power.” Lim was elected as the KCTU‘s 7th president Wednesday in an extraordinary session of delegates following the resignation of KCTU’s previous executives who had stepped down to take responsibility for a sexual assault case involving a former senior official. His plan is for the KCTU to be “reborn as a social solidarity confederation that works together with irregular workers, women and the disabled.”

In an interview Thursday afternoon with The Hankyoreh, Lim said the chief task for the KCTU‘s new executives would be “to make the KCTU more KCTU-like.”

– What is a “social solidarity confederation of trade unions”?

“During a global crisis of capitalism, we cannot improve welfare simply through a wage struggle for unionized workers and wage laborers. We need a social solidarity struggle where the benefits are also distributed to the people. I’ve given this kind of role to the KCTU.”

– What does social solidarity look like concretely?

“Even if your income drops, your situation will get better if your household expenses are lowered. For example, if they fix the system to bring down public education expenses, citizens’ real income improves. They have to carry out tax reform, for example with the property holding tax and progressive taxation, so that the rich pay more taxes. There is also a need to reform the regulation of the internal reserves and investment funds of businesses. We need to redirect current investments in stocks and real estate into businesses that support society by creating jobs. We are going to discuss these matters further with civic groups and the political parties, and include them within the agenda we will begin to create for the “social solidarity confederation of trade unions.” We intend to wage a movement to put pressure on the government to make these changes.”

– What kinds of plans are in place for addressing irregular workers’ concerns?

“We have a special committee for irregular workers, but there are so many cases that it‘s caught up just in tracking the organized irregular worker movement. We have to go back to square one and strengthen the social solidarity struggle in order to eliminate the discrimination against irregular workers, including the income discrepancy between irregular and regular positions. In order to this, we plan to set up a headquarters and increase the budget for social solidarity strategy.”

– We’ve been seeing labor unions leaving the KCTU. Can you describe what is happening.

“It’s something that can happen every day. It may be because our course wasn’t right for them, and it may be due to factional conflict. Recent public opinion about the KCTU may have also played a part. I don‘t take this trend lightly, but I’m not deeply concerned about it either.”

– What do you have to say to the criticism that the report issued by KCTU‘s special fact-finding committee on the sexual assault case was not disclosed to the public?

“We will release it if the prosecutors indict the perpetrator of the assault. The content of our report is no different from what’s already been announced. Based on that committee‘s recommendation, we agreed to send a payment of 20 million won for the victim’s mental health recovery, but she sent us a letter asking us to use the money for our gender equality budget. Her response brought tears to my eyes.”