A huge Hyundai Motor Co factory complex added weekend production on Saturday, despite a nationwide strike by truckers that has hit ports and other South Korean industrial giants, including steelmaker Posco.

On day five of the strike, some 100 unionised truckers, about a tenth of Friday’s show of force, assembled at the main gate of the Hyundai factory in the southern city of Ulsan, protesting soaring fuel prices and demanding higher freight rates to cover costs.

About 800 striking union members were rallying at the gates of a nearby major petrochemical complex in Ulsan. They had cut the number of vehicles to one-tenth of normal levels on Friday, according to union officials.

South Korea is a major supplier of semiconductors, smartphones, autos, batteries and electronics goods. The strike has deepened uncertainty over global supply chains already disrupted by China’s strict Covid-19 curbs and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Transport Ministry said on Saturday that it planned to meet with union representatives to continue talks aimed at ending the strike and called on union members to return to work immediately.

At the country’s main seaport in Busan, tension was rising as union members hurled insults at non-union drivers entering the main gate and at the police on hand to ensure vehicles were passing through the gate, according to a Reuters’ witness.

Busan handles about 80% of the country’s container traffic, which was down to a third of normal levels on Friday, a government official said.

Some of the hundreds of strikers threw rocks and water bottles at moving vehicles and a union leader was egging on members to rise up even at the risk of arrests.

“Do you want to check out the police station?” he bellowed into a megaphone, to a boisterous “Yes!” from members.

“What has (President) Yoon done for us?” he said, referring to conservative President Yoon Suk-yeol, who took office a month ago after a campaign promoting a pro-business economic agenda.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 12th, 2022.

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