Subject: South Korea unions force government to backdown 
   Date: Thu, 23 Jan 1997 21:31:34 -0600 
  From:  Scott Marshall 
     To: worldlst@rednet.org (World List for Rednet)

**South Korea unions force government to backdown**

(Reprinted from the January 25, 1997 issue of the People's
Weekly World. May be reprinted or reposted with PWW credit.
For subscription information see below)

By Fred Gaboury

In what the Financial Times of London called a "significant
climbdown," the South Korean government agreed on Jan. 21 to
bow to union demands and revise a package of repressive
legislation passed at a recent meeting of parliament.
Although the government action falls far short of meeting
the original demand of the Korean Confederation of Trade
Unions for nullification of the laws, the Financial Times
said the retreat "is expected to cause a reshuffle of
cabinet and ruling party officials."

The measures, passed at a 6 a.m. meeting from which
opposition parties were excluded on Dec. 26, ends the
"lifetime" jobs of many Korean workers, continues the ban
against the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions and gives
new investigative powers to the countries much-feared
internal intelligence service.

The retreat follows a week in which hundreds of thousands of
Korean workers - union estimates placed the number at nearly
three quarters of a million - continued a strike that began
on Dec. 26 and while South Korean President Kim Young-san
searched for a face-saving way of ending the face off.
Earlier, Kim had ordered cancellation of arrest warrants for
trade union leaders who organized the strikes and had defied
government orders to appear for questioning by prosecutors.

At its peak the strikes, organized and led by the outlawed
Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) with some
500,000 members, closed hundreds of Korean businesses,
including most heavy industry, and enjoyed the support of
the more conservative 1.2 million-member Korean Federation
of Trade Unions (KFTU).

While KFTU leaders bowed to rank-and-file demands of support
for a two-day general strike on Jan. 14-15, they were
reluctant to authorize broader action in the face of
government threats to arrest strike leaders.

Union organizations from around the world were quick to hail
the action of their Korean colleagues. In addition to
support from the American Federation of Trade Unions, the
World Federation of Trade Unions and the International
Confederation of Trade Unions.

In a statement released last week, the Southern Queensland
Branch of the Maritime Union of Australia hailed "the
steadfast and resolute campaign of workers and their
representatives in the face of the repressive laws and
accompanying police actions not only epitomizes the courage
and conviction of south Korean workers, but is an
inspiration for workers everywhere, including our own

The resolution condemned the enactment of "draconian anti-
labor legislation by the South Korean government" as "a
direct attack on workers' rights and living standards."
Subject: The children of Jose Marti 
   Date: Thu, 23 Jan 1997 21:31:48 -0600 
  From:  Scott Marshall 
     To: worldlst@rednet.org (World List for Rednet)

**The children of Jose Marti**

(Reprinted from the January 25, 1997 issue of the People's
Weekly World. May be reprinted or reposted with PWW credit.
For subscription information see below)

EXCLUSIVE By Tim Wheeler

HAVANA - It seemed appropriate that the Orlando Pantoja
elementary school in the Vedado section of Havana is housed
in two elegant mansions of millionaires who fled Cuba after
the triumph of the revolution in 1959.

These neoclassical houses decorated with arched porticos,
graceful columns, wrought iron and splendid tiled floors
were built for the comfort of the old elite. Indeed, Vedado
is Spanish for "forbidden" suggesting just how exclusive
this part of Havana used to be. Now the houses serve Cuba's
only "privileged class" - children. It is named for a hero
of the revolution.

Among the 603 pupils are 105 children from all over Cuba who
have been selected for training in Cuba's famed national
ballet. Yet the First Grade classroom taught by Grisell
Ramirez that I visited is completely integrated with
children of all racial backgrounds learning together. When I
asked the children if they were making good progress in
learning to read, there was a chorus of "Si!"

Martha Sanchez, the school's principal, told me that
everything from school supplies to an adequate diet and
immunizations against childhood diseases has been delivered
to Cuba's youngsters, much of it through Cuba's excellent
public school system. The government also guarantees an
adequate diet including milk every day.

"School is free for all children," she said. "They come
every day and we supply them with books, papers and pencils.
We provide a free lunch." There are 28 classroom teachers,
15 pedagogical auxiliaries (paraprofessional aides) and 10
non-teaching personnel. "We have an English language teacher
for children in the sixth grade," she said.

"This school used to belong to a wealthy factory owner who
left Cuba after the revolution," Sanchez added. "In 1961, it
was converted into a school. As enrollment grew, here, we
expanded into another house across the street."

Before the Cuban revolution a majority of the Cuban people
were illiterate. In 1961, Cuba launched the literacy
campaign to teach people to read and write.

"It is one of the achievements of socialism," Sanchez said.
"We must maintain this achievement at all cost. In spite of
the hardships caused by the blockade, none of our schools
has been closed. The state guarantees the conditions for all
the schools."

The literacy drive has lifted Cuba's literacy rate to 95.2
highest in Latin America, a key index of the well-being of
Cuban children. Meanwhile, Cuba's Ministry of Public Health
announced Jan. 1 that Cuba's infant mortality rate fell from
9.4 per 1,000 live births in 1995 to 7.9 per thousand live
births in 1996. In 1960, one year after the revolution,
Cuba's infant mortality rate was 65 per 1,000 live births.
Cuba now ranks in the top 20 nations of the world with an
infant mortality rate lower than that of the United States.

The week I left the U.S., there were reverberations from the
termination of welfare as an entitlement, a law that will
force one million more children into poverty. Already,
nearly a quarter of children in the U.S. are poor.

Mercedes Baez Muro, a kindergarten teacher who is also the
union representative at the school told me, "We have
meetings at this school of all the teachers as well as the
entire staff. We have an emulation system to encourage our
teachers to improve the quality of their instruction. Every
year, we choose a 'teacher of the year.' We also have
meetings to give the workers a chance to express their
concerns about working conditions."

Cuba has established their own version of the Parent-
Teacher-Association. Ms. Sanchez told me, "We call them
School Councils in which parents from each classroom meet to
discuss any problem and what we can do about it. Community
organizations and local government bodies also join in these
efforts to maintain the schools.

"The blockade has made it difficult. For example, some
medicines are hard to obtain. But you can see for yourself
the actions taken by the Party to improve the conditions of
the people, the children first of all. So we carry on the
struggle in spite of the blockade. We will not surrender."

At lunchtime, I went out onto the playground where the
children wearing red and blue Young Pioneer bandanas were
munching on hamburgers. I snapped photos of the noisy,
healthy, happy children. One bold little boy, Jorgito Vega,
a first grader with a big grin and a missing front tooth,
said to me in flawless English, "Thank you for coming to
visit us!"