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South Koreans shying away from labor organizations, protests

'Defeat' of truckers' union signals subtle change in public sentiment

Left: People in Seoul's Myeongdong shopping district in 2020. Right: Unionized cargo workers during a large protest in Seoul in 2019. (Source photos by Reuters and Penta Press)

TOKYO -- The political clout of South Korea's combative labor unions and citizen groups may be waning. These often-militant forces are losing their ability to rally people for massive protests, which have long been a fixture in the country's political landscape.

One notable sign of change in South Korean society came on Dec. 9, when the Cargo Truckers Solidarity Union (CTSU) voted to end their strike after 16 days and went back to work. The CTSU is one of the most aggressive groups among the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, which is arguably the world's most hard-line labor union.

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