KORAIL CEO and railway union deputy sit down for talks on ending strikeUpdated: 2013-12-26 PM 4:16:48 (KST)
As the country's rail strike rumbles through its 18th day, there is a new development that could bring about an end to the conflict between the state-run railway operator, KORAIL, and the railway union.
We have Kim Ji-yeon live on the phone for more. Ji-yeon, what's the latest?
KORAIL CEO Choi Yeon-hye and the railway union's deputy leader Park Tae-man are currently in talks at KORAIL headquarters in Seoul that started a little after 4 p.m. local time.
The meeting is the second since the railway declared an indefinite walkout on December 9th, the first one coming 13 days ago.
The talks come after the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism claimed a mediating position in the matter, saying it would form a special committee to resolve the conflict.
Earlier today, Choi Yeon-hye , the KORAIL CEO, visited the Jogyesa Temple in Seoul and urged union members holed up there to return to work.
During the talks, the railway union reportedly demanded that five changes be made to KORAIL.
First, it requested the withdrawal of a plan to form a subsidiary that will manage new Korea Train Express routes departing from southern Seoul.
The second is to halt the granting of operating licenses to corporations of the new operator.
And if they do grant them, it should clearly state that this has nothing to do with the privitization of the railway.
Other demands include the immediate end to police arrests and the prosecution of union members, and the formation of a committee under the transport ministry that would deal with issues related to improving the management of the railway.
What's the government response to this new development?
An hour ahead of the meeting, Finance Minister Hyun Oh-seok released a statement which said the continuation of the railway strike, which has no justifiable cause, is taking a heavy toll on the economy.
He added it will eventually drag down the nation's economic recovery, pointing to the railway's current debt of nearly 17-billion U.S. dollars.
"I'll say this again. The establishment of a new railway operator to manage new Korea Train Express routes departing from southern Seoul is not a step toward privitization. The country's railways have been run by one entity without competition for the past 114 years, and this has led to it being poorly managed. We believe the competition among public entities could reduce fares and increase the quality of railway operations in the future."
But as we speak, the rail strike continues, and KORAIL announced new measures today designed to mitigate its effects.
The state-run rail operator on its website said it would be hiring 6-hundred-60 new employees to reduce the strain from the prolonged strike.
Passenger train services are running at about 70 percent of normal levels, while freight train services have been reduced to around 30 percent of normal levels.
Ticket sales for passenger train services during the New Year's and the Lunar New Year holidays are also expected to be affected, depending on the results of the meeting.
The union has called for rallies throughout the nation on Thursday, and a large-scale protest in Seoul on Saturday.
Kim Jiyeon, reporting live on the 18th day of the railway strike and a possible resolution in the works.
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