SEOUL, AUG. 24 -- Dissident leaders made clear today that they will try to use the recent death of a young worker to increase pressure on the government, arguing that the apparent killing by police proves the nation's rulers are not committed to democratization.
A spokesman for the National Coalition for a Democratic Constitution, which organized the June protests that persuaded the government to agree to hold direct elections, said the group hopes to turn the worker's funeral into a national rally Wednesday.
"It's a sign that this government may not be able to change its behavior toward the democratic way," said dissident leader Rev. Park Hyung Kyu. "Their tendency to use violence, to use their power, cannot be changed."
Leaders of the political opposition made similar charges yesterday in an escalation of rhetoric on the case. The ruling party urged politicians not to exploit the death for partisan purposes.
It remained unclear, however, whether workers -- who have struck about 1,600 firms since July 1 -- will escalate their protests in response to the death.
Labor unrest throughout the country followed what has become the pattern: as dozens of strikes were settled, scores of new disputes began. Workers at the Lotte and Seoul Plaza hotels downton agreed to resume work, ending the occupation of their deluxe hotel lobbies.
But in Changwon, near Pusan in the southeast, at least 10 workers were injured in renewed labor violence when strikers at a machinery plant clashed with fellow workers opposed to the stoppage, Reuter reported.
Lee Sok Kyu, 21, was killed Saturday during a clash between riot police and locked-out workers from the Daewoo shipyard on the southern island of Koje. He is the first fatality in the labor unrest that has swirled through South Korea since the government agreed in June to hold elections later this year.
The cause of Lee's death has not been officially determined, but workers and doctors have said that fragments from a police-fired tear-gas grenade pierced his lung. An autopsy today showed Lee was killed by four fragments "of an unknown nature" in his lung, and the fragments were sent to a national laboratory for analysis.
Kim Young Sam, president of the opposition Reunificaion Democratic Party, called for an investigation into Lee's death and criticized the government for blocking the workers' demonstration.
Kim Dae Jung, the other chief opposition leader, criticized police for firing tear-gas grenades horizontally at demonstrators, instead of into the air.
The ruling Democratic Justice Party responded with expressions of regret and urged the Daewoo shipyard to "exert more positive efforts" to satisfy worker demands. The party also agreed to an opposition request to convene a National Assembly committee to look into labor unrest.
The Daewoo shipyard, with 15,000 workers, is South Korea's second largest, and is part of one of the nation's largest conglomerates. Workers there formed a union and began picketing for higher wages about two weeks ago.
The company suspended talks and shut the yard Friday, saying negotiations were proving fruitless. Angered workers took to the streets of Okpo on Saturday and clashed with police when demonstrators charged a hotel where the company president was staying.
"This guy dying obviously puts a completely different wrinkle on everything," a western diplomat said. "It raises the obvious comparisons with Lee Han Yol."
Lee Han Yol, a Yonsei University student, was killed by a police tear-gas grenade earlier this summer. His death became a rallying cry for students and his funeral turned into a rally for democracy that drew hundreds of thousands of people.