SEOUL (REUTERS) - Thousands of South Korean truckers were on strike for a third day on Thursday (June 9) to protest the sharp surge in fuel costs, disrupting shipments from ports and container depots and posing new risks to a strained global supply chain.
Presenting President Yoon Seok-youl, in power for just a month, with one of his first big economic challenges, about 7,200 members or roughly 30 per cent of the Cargo Truckers Solidarity union were on strike, the country’s transport ministry said.
A union official said the number of participating members was much higher and they were also joined by non-union truckers.
“Due to skyrocketing fuel prices and the government not acting enough to protect our livelihood, our frustration is only growing and growing,” Mr Kim Jae-kwang, a senior union official, said. He said many truck drivers were on the verge of going out of business.
“Large cargo truck drivers are paying an additional 3 million won in fuel costs when their monthly pay is around 3 to 4 million won.”
South Korean steelmaker POSCO said it had been unable to ship about 35,000 tonnes of steel products from two plants daily since the strike began – equivalent to roughly a third of its daily shipments from those plants.
A South Korean auto industry group called the strike "extremely selfish", saying it would further pressure the sector which has been hurt by the global chip shortage.
Hyundai Motor Co has seen some disruption to production at plants in Ulsan as truck drivers refuse to deliver components to Hyundai's plants, Yonhap news agency reported.
Hyundai Motor declined to comment on the matter.
An official with the Korean Shippers’ Council said the impact was being felt at the ports.
“There’s only a minimal amount of cargo getting into ports right now. Until yesterday the situation may have appeared okay because some pre-arranged cargoes were being delivered but the reality now is that it is very difficult.”
The Cargo Truckers Solidarity union is part of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, which is known for being more defiant than other big union groups in their actions.
The police have made more than two dozen arrests including members of the truckers union who were blocking the gates of the Hite Jinro brewery in Icheon, south-east of Seoul, Yonhap news reported.
President Yoon warned strikers on Thursday not to use violence and said the government is trying to resolve the situation through dialogue.
“Under no circumstances will the public find breaches of the law or resorting to violence acceptable,” he told reporters.