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Riots, dancing mark Asia's May Day

Hundreds of anti-globalization protesters in Australia
Hundreds of anti-globalization protesters barricade the entrance to the Sydney Stock Exchange in Sydney  

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Economic reforms

Scuffles with police

SEOUL, South Korea -- Workers of North and South Korea sang and danced together in their first joint celebration, just one of many ways that Asia marked May Day.

In cities across Australia, police and protesters clashed violently as thousands of anti-globalization demonstrators tried to shut down stock exchanges and big corporations. Asia
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"The world belongs to the people. The streets belong to the people," protesters screamed in the northernmost state capital, Brisbane.

The worst violence flared in Australia but elsewhere in Asia, amid a global economic downturn, workers united in calls for an end to rising unemployment, deteriorating pay and conditions.

Taiwan protesters wave big flags
Taiwan protesters urge the government to curb record-high unemployment  

In Japan, Taiwan and Indonesia, thousands marched or attended rallies. In Thailand, about 20,000 laborers in Bangkok demanded that the new Thai Rak Thai (Thais Love Thais) government keep its promise to provide social security for the out-of-work.

In Pakistan, a massive security operation prevented opposition parties from staging a protest rally against the ruling military regime.

Buddhist monks rally in Sri Lanka
Buddhist monks take part in a rally in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo  

Security was also tight in Sri Lanka, where May Day marks the 1993 assassination by separatists of President Ranasinghe Premadasa and 23 others at a rally.

In Phnom Penh, more than 2,000 people demanded better conditions for Cambodia's estimated 150,000 garment factory workers.

Economic reforms

About a thousand workers from the two Koreas observed May Day at Diamond Mountain, a scenic North Korean resort area. In Seoul, thousands of South Korean workers staged marches against economic reforms that have resulted in layoffs.

The inter-Korean festivities were the first of their kind since the division of the Korean Peninsula in 1945. The Koreas fought a 1950-53 war, and their border remains sealed.

Choi Chang Man, a North Korean representative, called for support for a June 15 summit agreement in which leaders of the two Koreas pledged to work for national reconciliation and unification.

"We workers in the North and the South must unite to support the June 15 joint declaration," Choi said. His remarks and other details of the joint May Day festivities were reported by South Korea's national news agency, Yonhap.

Inter-Korean reconciliation has slowed this year.

Experts believe North Korea is upset with the government of President George W. Bush, who said he was skeptical of North Korean leaders and would not immediately resume talks with the communist regime.

Angry Korean unionists
Angry South Korean unionists protested against massive lay-offs  

North Korean workers, wearing white baseball caps and T-shirts with the blue-colored map of the Korean Peninsula printed on them, greeted South Korean visitors with shouts of "Unification," Yonhap said.

Elsewhere in Korea, about 20,000 workers took to the streets of Seoul to protest against government-initiated economic restructuring and a harsh police crackdown on Daewoo Motor workers in April.

"Down with (President) Kim Dae-jung's government oppressing workers," the protesters chanted, as they marched towards the presidential palace after a rally in a Seoul park.

About 15,000 riot police were deployed to deter the protesters from approaching the presidential Blue House.

Scuffles with police

In Australia, thousands of anti-globalization protesters scuffled with riot police. Several people were reported injured in Brisbane, with an estimated 30 police injured across the nation.

Hundreds of protesters blocked the entrance to the Sydney headquarters of the Australian Stock Exchange, linking arms to prevent people entering the building, but business was not interrupted.

Thousands cross the gate to Tiananmen Square
Thousands crowd Beijing's Tiananmen Square on the first day of a week-long holiday to mark May Day  

Protesters in Melbourne briefly threatened to storm a McDonald's restaurant and sprayed it with slogans as onlookers cheered.

In China, May Day served as a holiday for most workers. The international labor day is a lot less politically charged than it once was. Instead of mass rallies, the day is now the start of one of the year's biggest travel seasons.

The government requires employers to give employees the rest of the week off, in part to try to stimulate the economy by encouraging people to spend on travel.

The overseas edition of the People's Daily, the main Communist Party newspaper, and the English-language China Daily published a front-page photo of four smiling women setting off by train from the southwestern city of Kunming for Hanoi.

In Hong Kong, hundreds of local and foreign workers staged protests against high unemployment, Hong Kong radio reported.

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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