Korea: Health unions strike and rally against health privatisation

27 June 2014
PSI Women's Committee hold banners in solidarity with Korean health workers
Korea health unions KHMU and KPTU-HealthSol held a strike from 24-30 June, and protest rallies on 27 and 28 June after the Korean government's announcement to allow for deregulation and privatisation of the health services in the country.

PSI has sent a solidarity message from General Secretary Rosa Pavanelli by video, as has Candice Owley, President of Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals (AFT, USA) who is also a member of the PSI Executive Board and World Women's Committee.

KHMU and KPTU-HealthSol are affiliated to PSI and to the national center the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU).

In her video message, Rosa Pavanelli said, "Defending public health care systems is one of the fundamental aims of Public Services International.

"Quality public health care services ensure universal access to health for all.

"The way President Park is trying to privatise public services in the health care sector, as well as in transport and other sectors, is very aggressive. The business community know that people cannot live without health services and it is a huge market for the privateers.

"PSI stands with our Korean affiliates in their fight against privatisation and  commend their actions."
 
Since the end of last year the conservative Park Geun-hye administration has been pursuing a plan to allow non-profit hospitals to establish for-profit subsidiaries and expand secondary activities such as medical hotels and specialty treatment centres. The plan will also permit large hospitals to carry out merger and acquisitions. Unions, civil society organisations and large portion of the Korean public fear the government's plans will transform heathcare into a for-profit industry, destroying is function as a public service and a human right.
 
After preparing throughout the first half of the year, the KHMU and KPTU-HeathSol went on strike and carried out a series of protests between June 24 and June 28. On June 24, 4000 KHMU members struck and participated in a rally in downtown Seoul. Following, close to 700 members of KPTU-HeathSol employed at Seoul National University Hospital (SNUH) and Kyungpook National University Hospital (KNUH) took strike action and gathered on Seoul for two days of protests.
 
On June 28, both health sector unions joined other KCTU affiliates in mass protests calling on the Korean government to stop privatisation and deregulation, which have proven to put lives of ordinary people at risk.
 
The struggle against heathcare privatisation is far from over. Both the KHMU and KPTU-HeathSol are planning a second round of strikes on July 22, ahead of the implementation of the new healthcare regulations announced on June 10. The KCTU is organising an ‘alliance strike’ for that day, to the two health sector unions and other KCTU affiliates.

 

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