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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Korea's Unions Waver on Continued Strike

SEOUL, South Korea -- Waving banners and shouting curses, tens of thousands of workers from two rival union groups and their supporters marched through South Korea's major cities Tuesday.

But despite their show of bravado, the two opposing labor umbrella groups failed to agree on whether to continue joint strikes against a new labor law they fear threatens their jobs.

The militant, outlawed union group that has been heading the 20-day-old strike had hoped the larger, government-sanctioned group would lend its full support by agreeing to join in an extended nationwide strike.

But after meeting with his outlawed counterpart, the head of the Federation of Korean Trade Unions said there were no plans to extend strikes by his member unions beyond their scheduled 39 hours.

The two leaders instead issued a vague promise to work together for the common goal of seeing Korea's new labor law abolished.

The new law extends the government-approved group's monopoly as South Korea's only legal labor organization for the next five years, giving it little incentive to cooperate with the outlawed organization.

"Why should we have to follow their lead? A strike isn't the only way to press our demand," said Lee Chung-shik, an official at Federation of Korean Trade Unions, long considered to be a tame supporter of the government.

The law also gives businesses greater freedom to fire employees and adjust their work hours -- anathema to workers accustomed to stable, lifelong employment.

The strike by workers in auto, shipyard and other key industries under the outlawed union group has crippled major export plants and cost $2.4 billion in lost production.

The outlawed union has vowed to expand the strike to subways, buses and cargo handlers Wednesday unless the law is repealed.

The government-sanctioned federation predicted its two-day strike by taxi drivers, bank employees and hundreds of thousands of workers at small to medium-sized businesses would seriously cripple the nation.

But participation was spotty and the walkouts and slowdowns had little immediate impact.

The government continues to stand firm, and the ruling party again refused to hold talks with the opposition party to discuss ways of resolving the crisis.d "oil-for-food" deal with Iraq, enabling Baghdad to make a limited return to the world oil market for the first time since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

Under the deal, concluded in May but held up by disputes over implementation, Iraq will be able to sell $2 billion worth of oil over six months to buy food, medicine and other humanitarian goods to help offset the effects of sanctions in force for the past six years.

Both the oil sales and the purchase of humanitarian supplies are subject to close UN monitoring.

If all goes well, the Security Council may renew the deal when the initial six months expire.

Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali gave the final go-ahead in a report to the Security Council. Under an April 1995 council resolution on which the scheme is based, the initial six-month period begins at one minute after midnight in New York.

Mandela, speaking in Cape Town on Sunday also brought into stark relief what some delegates are calling the language war.

He said French President Jacques Chirac told him by telephone that he would veto Salim because he was not fluent in French as well as English and Chirac was not prepared to support any candidate without these qualifications.

Mandela also said he tried in vain to convince U.S. President Bill Clinton to drop his opposition to Boutros-Ghali, who was endorsed by the OAU at its July summit in Yaounde, Cameroon.