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S. Korean strike comes to dramatic end

Marketplace Staff Aug 6, 2009
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S. Korean strike comes to dramatic end

Marketplace Staff Aug 6, 2009
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TEXT OF STORY

Bill Radke: In South Korea, a dramatic, two-month long strike at a Korean automaker seems to have ended in the last few hours. Workers had been protesting massive layoffs by occupying a factory full of flammable paint thinner. Police were not allowing food or doctors into that building. Our Asia correspondent is Scott Tong. Hi Scott.

Scott Tong: Good morning Bill.

Radke:How close did this get to a really violent ending?

Tong:Yesterday the clashes seemed the most violent in this strike. The workers who were holed up in one of the factories fired catapults and fire bombs toward the authorities. They painted on the wall of the building that they occupied “If you’re not going to talk, kill us all.” On the other side you had police forces repelling from the choppers and dropping liquified tear gas on some of the protesters.

Radke:Yeah how did the standoff finally end?

Tong:We have an announcement from the company today that the strike is over and the company says it will layoff fewer workers than it said before. The company says about half of the workers that were still unhappy were going to be kept on. And in a sign that the markets like this, sales of the automaker Ssangyong were up 15 percent today in Korea.

Radke:What does this one violent labor dispute say about the larger auto industry?

Tong:Well this particular dispute goes back to an acquisition that went sour involving a Chinese company that bought 15 percent of this company. What is happening is every single company is thinking about how it can global. The ideal company needs to have low cost, which is to have a presence in China. It needs to have technology and management, which the U.S. automakers have an advantage in. And it has to be strong in making small autos, which the Japanese, and the Koreans and the Europeans are better at. So each of these companies is trying to join forces with another global company, and these things are hard to work out. And in this case, you have violent strikes as a result.

Radke:Marketplace’s Scott Tong in Shanghai. Thanks, Scott.

Tong:OK Bill. You’re welcome.

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