© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol attends the ASEAN summit held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia November 11, 2022. REUTERS/Cindy Liu
By Joyce Lee
SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol warned that the government could intervene to break up a nationwide strike by truckers, calling the taking of the country’s supply chain “hostage”. participation in an economic crisis is illegal and unacceptable.
Thousands of unionized truckers began their second major strike in less than six months on Thursday, and it has shown signs of disrupting many industries in the world’s 10th largest economy.
“The public will not tolerate taking the logistics system hostage in the face of a national crisis,” Yoon said in a Facebook message (NASDAQ: NASDAQ:) late Thursday, after saying that exports are key to weathering economic instability and financial market volatility.
“If irresponsible denials of transportation continue, the government will have no choice but to consider a number of measures, including an order to start work.”
Under Korean law, during times of severe transportation disruption, the government can issue orders to force transport workers back into their jobs. Failure to comply is punishable by up to three years in prison or a fine of up to 30 million won ($22,550).
If the government goes down this path, it will be the first time in Korean history that such an order has been issued.
Transport Minister Won Hee-ryong told reporters on Thursday that the ministry has begun building the facility to issue the order.
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 and failed to find seek dialogue since then.
“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 delayed deliveries resulting in fines and cancellations of 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 factory by strike truckers, KITA said.
The cement industry suffered an estimated revenue loss of 19 billion won ($14.26 million) on Thursday, after export shipments fell below 10,000 tonnes due to the fall of 10,000 tonnes, the Korea Cement Association said. strike. This compares with Korea’s demand for 200,000 tons of cement during the peak season from September to early December.
The union estimated that about 25,000 people joined the strike, out of a total of about 420,000 transport workers in South Korea. The transport ministry said about 8,000 people camped out on Thursday at key traffic points to protest overnight.
($1 = 1,332,4700 won)