Strike disrupts Korean port
Operations at South Korea's largest port were disrupted by a strike by unionized truck drivers demanding higher payments, port officials said yesterday. The Maritime and Fisheries Office in the southern city of Busan said only 55 percent of the usual number of containers entered and left the port Friday because of the strike. In South Korea, many corporations sign contracts with trans--portation companies to deliver their products. The transportation companies then subcontract some of their cargo to unionized, independent truck drivers. The 2,000-member Busan branch of the Korea Cargo Transportation Workers' Union threatened to continue what they called a "warning strike" until today if transportation companies don't raise their payments to them, said Jung Won-seok, a union official. They went on strike Friday and have not yet decided on their next step. Jung said union members in Incheon, a major port city west of Seoul, also threatened to strike beginning Monday.
■ Consumer rights
Coca-Cola asked to pay
An Indian court has asked US beverage giant Coca-Cola to compensate a customer who complained his soft drink contained "foreign particles," a report said yesterday. The national consumer court in New Delhi upheld a lower court order and ordered the multinational to pay 2,500 rupees (US$53) to Naresh Thakkar, who alleged the foreign particles had upset his stomach, the Press Trust of India news agency reported. Officials did find foreign particles in the bottle, but it was not clear what they were or if they could be considered a health risk.
Vietnam to receive aid
The World Bank said yesterday it has given Vietnam US$139 million to fund a project helping underprivileged children complete primary school. The total cost of the project is estimated at US$244 million of which the World Bank, Australia, Canada, Norway and Britain have provided US$200 million. The project is targeted at Vietnam's more impoverished regions, with two-thirds of the chosen 189 districts having more than 50 percent ethnic minority populations, the World Bank said in a statement. "Investments in primary education have a high rate of return," said Marianne Karlsen from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation. "They have a significant positive impact on agriculture and non-agriculture incomes in rural areas. This will not only reduce the incidence of rural poverty but also reduce the economic pull of urban and other growth areas."
Grain futures rally
A runaway rally prompted by speculation about next week's government supply-and-demand data lifted wheat and corn futures to huge gains Friday on the Chicago Board of Trade. Wheat prices scored the biggest advance, rocketing about 8 percent higher. Corn hit six-month highs. The buying frenzy was touched off by soybean investors. Uneasy that the government may reduce its estimate of soybean stocks on Monday, they pushed prices to a series of contract highs in heavy buying that soon spread to other trading pits. Wheat hit its highest price since late February in a rally so frantic that some investors said they couldn't remember another one like it. Some contracts moved as much as US$0.25 a bushel or more higher at one point.