Unionized workers of top broadcaster KBS went on an indefinite strike Thursday, upping the ante against their embattled CEO in an intensifying row over the executive's alleged political meddling in news production.
Demanding the resignation of CEO Gil Hwan-young, two labour unions of the state-funded KBS launched the walkout as of 5 a.m. Thursday, raising fears of a major disruption of its broadcasting services during local elections and the FIFA World Cup next month.
"This is to free KBS from all the undue political pressure from the presidential office and to become a fair and independent media organisation once again," Baek Yong-gyu, who leads one of the two unions, said at a rally of striking unionists on Thursday afternoon.
Nearly 80 per cent of all KBS workers belong to the two groups. They are news reporters, producers, engineers and managerial staff. It was not known immediately how many members of the two unions participated in the joint action.
The strike came hours after the broadcaster's board deferred a vote of no-confidence in Gil at a marathon meeting that ended early Thursday morning. The board decided to meet again on June 5 to further discuss the matter.
The company's management called the strike illegal and threatened to take disciplinary measures against participants.
"The strike has nothing to do with labour conditions. The strikers are taking issue with whether the CEO should stay or not, which is a clear violation of labour laws," it said in a press statement.
Gil has been under fire since Kim Si-gon, former chief of KBS news, claimed recently that the CEO used his influence to produce newscasts favourable to the current administration, especially regarding last month's ferry disaster.
The executive has denied the allegation and resisted mounting calls to resign from both within and without.
Some journalists of the broadcaster have been boycotting news production since May 19, demanding his resignation.