Around 10,000 South Korean workers joined a May Day protest in the capital Seoul on Monday, and 30,000 marched nationwide.
The atmosphere of the protest was bright. Many groups joined the marches including trade unionists, campaigners demanding justice for the victims of the 2014 Sewol ferry disaster and LGBT+ activists. These had fought alongside the workers and eventually achieved the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye in March.
Workers were pleased to see that the corrupt president is now behind bars, and they are proud of their contribution to it.
During the march, workers stressed that “The very first million-strong protest for the movement came when we KCTU union federation rallied for the Day of People’s Action in November.”
However, it is also true that the leadership of the trade union movement worked hard to rein in workers’ struggle, and the central role of organised workers was contained to the initial phase of the movement.
The movement gave a critical blow to Park’s right-wing party, the most favoured party of the ruling class. A presidential election is due on 9 May and Park’s party is low in the polls.
The main bourgeois opposition party, the Democratic Party, is likely to win the election.
Sim Sang-jung, a candidate from the social democratic Justice Party is gaining popularity among radial youth and workers. She is a former KCTU trade unionist and has criticised the bourgeois candidates for their timid behaviour.
Sim has been running at between 8 percent and 10 percent in polls, a record high for a social democratic presidential candidate in South Korea.
On the May Day protest, workers wanted to make demands on the future government and welcome candidates that represented the workers’ movement.
The acting president of KCTU stressed that “it is increasingly becoming clear that we cannot rely on the presidential candidates to win our demands.”
The genuine potential lies in turning the renewed confidence of workers into stronger organisation and a stronger movement.