After 309 days, South Korean protester climbs down from crane

Thu Nov 10, 2011 6:30am EST
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By Jeremy Laurence and Ju-min Park

SEOUL (Reuters) - After 309 days atop a crane -- sitting out snowstorms, a typhoon and heatwaves -- labor activist Kim Jin-suk came down to earth on Thursday, claiming victory against one of South Korea's shipbuilders.

Kim's case became a cause celebre in Asia's fourth biggest economy amid growing worker anger over wage levels and the government's business-friendly policies.

Her soapbox was a cabin aboard crane No. 85 at Busan shipyard. Thousands of supporters travelled to the port in the south of the country to attend a series of rallies near the crane which also drew applause from the main opposition party.

Kim said via Twitter that her protest had not only been successful in winning back employees' jobs, but also underlined "ideals that I have been working for half my life."

Dressed in blue overalls, and wearing a baseball cap, she waved to a few dozen supporters and bowed, before climbing down a 35-meter ladder to end her sit-in.

"It's the first time in 309 days that I've seen a human this close," Yonhap news agency quoted Kim as saying to surrounding labor union officials who welcomed her down.

"I knew I would be able to come down alive ... You guys saved me."

Police escorted her to hospital for a checkup, and said they would arrest her for business obstruction and other charges.   Continued...