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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Korean Reforms Draw Fire

SEOUL, South Korea -- More than 1,000 workers rallied Wednesday outside two South Korean firms at the center of a corporate restructuring drive, protesting that the reforms will lead to mass firings.

There are fears of labor unrest in the country with more workers likely to lose their jobs following an agreement between five of the chaebols, or conglomerates, that dominate South Korea's economy to trim their bloated business empires - a move that will also hurt smaller firms.

"Down with the government," hundreds of workers of Samsung Motors Inc. chanted outside the headquarters of the giant Samsung Group during a rally.

"Scrap the big deal plans," they shouted, demanding an explanation of the deal agreed between Samsung and Daewoo Monday in which loss-making Samsung Motors will be swapped with Daewoo Electronics.

Fears of labor unrest escalated after the two umbrella union groups Tuesday declared an "all-out" battle against the government and the top five conglomerates to forestall mass firings.

The militant Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, which claims 550,000 members, rallied outside Seoul's National Assembly for the second day Wednesday. The KCTU says more than 70,000 workers are expected to lose their jobs from the entire program of restructuring. Joblessness reached 7.1 percent of the work force at the end of October - a shattering level in a country with a tradition of lifetime employment.

The five biggest chaebols had been dragging their heels on reform, but they recently promised President Kim Dae-jung to dramatically restructure to help the country toward recovery.