***Real Time Update***
Right now a special division of 2,500 police are engaged in an assault on the occupied factory. The cops have removed most barricades and are using aerial ladders to attempt to reach the fortified roof positions of the strikers. 3 helicopters are supporting the cop attack. Hand-to-hand battles are presently occurring and the strikers are fighting back with molotov cocktails. Due to the intensity of the fighting, there will probably be many casualties -- and possibly fatalities.
Negotiations have occurred several times throughout the day. The major hurdle is layoffs: management says they're necessary; strikers won't budge and demand that no one be laid off, even if it requires less hours for everyone and work furloughs. For the government and management it is crucial to break the strike so that austerity can be imposed on other autoworkers, as well as in other sectors needing restructuring due to the crisis. The biggest creditor of Ssangyong is Sanup Bank(Korean Development Bank), which is government owned.
July 29, 2009 is day 10 (corrected: the police assault began July 20). Medical workers and other community solidarity supporters attempted to deliver water to the factory in the morning. In the afternoon KCTU organized a rally of 3,000, only to have it attacked by as many as 10 helicopters dropping bags of toxic tear gas, in addition to 500 riot cops attacking the demonstrators and watercanon trucks spraying teargas on them.
Yesterday (Monday, July 27, 2009) evening at 6:30, taking 40 minutes, around 3,000 police (out of a total of 9,000 cops surrounding the factory) and the fire department conducted a coordinated drill to simulate a "safe" retaking of the factory. But in the process, cops inched closer to the factory, securing positions within 30 meters of the paint department. A SWAT team of 50 cops also participated.
The police are closing in on the paint department, but the strikers occupying the factory are not backing down. They broadcast their determination to "fight to the death" over loudspeakers from the paint department roof, only to have the cop helicopters immediately resume the bombardment with bags of a toxic teargas mixture.
Brief update: management failed to show up for the tripartite meeting today (Saturday, July 24, 2009), saying "Talks would be meaningless unless violent acts are halted." The hypocrisy is made clear by non-stop attack of helicopters dropping toxic liquid teargas on the strikers. In Pyeongtaek a solidarity rally took place today, with pitched street battle between demonstrators and riot cops. More details coming soon.
Today it became apparent that with the constant spraying of teargas tainted with thinner, strikers are suffering from their skin blistering and peeling off with an extreme burning sensation. With no water in the occupied factory to wash off the toxins, it is becoming a severe health problem. There was also a tripartite meeting between government, Ssangyong management, and the union. The company bosses refused to negotiate until the occupation ends, stating that they won't back down on the layoffs.