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South Korean truckers’ strike disrupts supply chains

South Korean truck drivers staged an eighth day of protests on Tuesday over rising fuel prices that have further aggravated global supply chains, with the government warning their actions had caused more than $1 billion in losses.

The strike disrupted shipments and production in the crucial steel, petrochemical and auto industries, causing about 1.6 trillion won ($1.2 billion) in losses, according to ministry data. of Commerce in Seoul.

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Industrial action is the latest headache for global supply chains, already strained by China’s prolonged COVID-19 shutdowns and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

South Korea is the world’s largest exporter of memory chips and is home to global chip powerhouse Samsung Electronics, as well as major auto companies such as Kia and Hyundai Motors.

It also represents the first major industrial action under newly elected President Yoon Suk-yeol, a pro-business conservative who had previously pledged to deal “strictly” with labor disputes.

Drivers stopped work last week and disrupted ports and factories in Asia’s fourth-largest economy as they protested the end of a minimum wage guarantee and rising costs.

“All we ask is to remove the uncertainty in our lives,” Cho Jeong-jae, a member of the Cargo Truckers Solidarity Union, told AFP on Tuesday.

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Truckers say they are “desperate” due to soaring fuel prices, with inflation in South Korea at its highest level in more than a decade, official data showed last month.

“When fuel prices go down, that very quickly translates into lower transportation costs,” Cho said. “But that’s not the case when fuel prices go up. Our livelihoods are at stake.”

Loud music erupted from a van parked near a port in Incheon on Tuesday, AFP reporters found, as dozens of trucks lined the road, displaying flags raised on bamboo canes.

Similar protests had been taking place across the country since Monday, with more than 7,000 people taking part in the protests in 14 locations, according to the Lands Ministry.

Negotiations are ongoing, but the government has been criticized for its “unfriendly” policy towards workers, which critics say is fueling tensions.

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During the election campaign, Yoon, a political novice, had vowed to deal “strictly” with labor disputes and indicated he was more pro-business on issues such as minimum working hours.

On Monday, 23 members of the Cargo Truckers Solidarity Union had been arrested for committing “illegal activities” such as “disrupting” the normal operation of vehicles, according to the country’s transport ministry.

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Post expires at 2:41pm on Friday June 24th, 2022