A protest against hundreds of layoffs at the Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction in Busan turned ugly at the weekend as protesters, including many Catholics, tried to gain entry into the company’s shipyard.
Around 50 people were arrested and dozens injured on Sunday after police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse the protesters who sat down in front of the shipyard gates after being denied entry by the police.
The Catholics were among thousands of people who joined striking workers to demand Hanjin abandon plans announced in December 2010 to lay off 400 employees.
Many of the protesters had arrived on Saturday from around the country on 185 “Buses of Hope.”
Earlier, around 200 Catholics celebrated street Masses July 5-8 in front of the shipyard in a show of support for the workers who have been on strike since December.
“We held the masses to symbolize a peaceful protest,” said Father Vincentius Kim Jun-han, president of Busan diocese’s Committee for Justice and Peace.
Cha Hae-do, one of the employees, said he and his colleagues appreciated the support.
“The Masses helped give us confidence in our fight against the company’s decision,” he said.
Their struggle is being led by labor activist Kim Jin-suk, a member of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions advisory committee, who has staged a sit-in the cabin of a 35-meter-high crane since last January.