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South Korea’s Yoon warns of crackdown on trucker strike | Business and Economy


South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol has warned the government may intervene to break up a nationwide strike by truckers, describing it as an illegal and unacceptable move to “hostage” of the national supply chain during an economic crisis.

Thousands of unionized truckers began their second major strike for better pay and working conditions in less than six months on Thursday. The move disrupted supply chains across the world’s 10th largest economy, affecting carmakers, the cement industry and steelmakers.

Union officials said no negotiations or dialogue were taking place with the government. The country’s transport ministry said it had requested talks with the union on Thursday, but the parties have yet to agree a date.

Union officials estimate that about 25,000 people joined the strike, out of about 420,000 transport workers in South Korea. The transport ministry said about 7,700 people were expected to protest for Friday’s strike at 164 locations nationwide, down from 9,600 on Thursday.

“The public will not tolerate holding the logistics system hostage in the face of a national crisis,” Yoon said in a Facebook message late Thursday, noting that exports are key. key to weather economic instability and financial market volatility.

“If irresponsible denial of transportation continues, the government will have no choice but to consider a number of measures, including an order to start work.”

Under South Korean law, the government can issue orders to force transport workers to return to their jobs during any severe disruption. Failure to comply is punishable by up to three years in prison or a fine of up to 30 million won ($22,550).

It will be the first time in South Korean history that such an order will be issued if the government decides to do so. Transport Minister Won Hee-ryong told reporters on Thursday that the ministry has begun building the facility to issue the order.

The strike comes after South Korea saw its biggest October exports fall in 26 months as a trade deficit stretched for a seventh month, suggesting a slowdown in the country’s export-oriented economy. .

Amid the bleak economic backdrop, Yoon’s approval rating was mostly unchanged for a fifth week at 30%, according to Gallup Korea on Friday, despite his focus on perceived economic issues. received positive feedback.

The head of the Truckers Solidarity Union (CTSU), Lee Bong-ju, said truckers had no choice but to go on strike after the government stalled negotiations.

“Yoon Suk-yeol’s government is threatening to take a tough response without any attempt to stop the strike,” Lee told reporters on Thursday.

On the first day of the strike, the Korea International Trade Association (KITA) said it had received 19 reports of logistics disruptions. These include an inability to bring in raw materials, higher logistics costs, and delivery delays leading to fines and canceled transactions with overseas buyers.

In one case, raw materials for a chemical company were delivered under police protection after the vehicle was blocked from entering the plant by strike truckers, KITA said.

The cement industry suffered an estimated output loss of 19 billion won ($14.26 million) on Thursday after export shipments fell below 10,000 tonnes due to the outbreak, the Korea Cement Association said. strike.

This compares with Korea’s demand for 200,000 tons of cement per day during the peak season from September to early December. Sites are at risk of running out of construction materials after the weekend.

The industry ministry said the steel sector also saw shipments drop on Thursday. POSCO, the country’s largest steel producer, declined to comment on the extent.

Meanwhile, workers at Hyundai Motor’s Ulsan plant are expected to directly drive about 1,000 new cars to customers on Friday, after delivering about 50 cars on Thursday, a representative of Hyundai Motor Co. a separate union at the factory told Reuters news agency. There has been no impact on auto output so far, the official said.

Drivers employed by Hyundai Motor’s logistics arm, Hyundai Glovis, also began delivering some Kia Corp vehicles by driving them directly from the Kia Gwangju factory to customers, a Kia official told Reuters.

The official did not say how many Kias will be delivered directly to buyers.

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