Thousands of demonstrators representing organized labor yesterday marched in South Korea’s capital denouncing government attempts to force thousands of striking truckers back to work after they walked out in a dispute over the price of freight.
There were no immediate reports of injuries or major clashes from the protests near the National Assembly in Seoul.
The marchers, mostly members of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, accused Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol’s conservative government of labor oppression and ignoring what they described as the truckers’ harsh work conditions and financial struggles, worsened by rising fuel costs.
The government on Tuesday issued an order for about 2,500 drivers of cement trucks to return to work, saying that their walkout is rattling the national economy.
It was not immediately clear how many truckers returned to their jobs following the order, and they union vowed to continue the strike.
Thousands of members of the Cargo Truckers Solidarity Union have been striking since last week, calling for the government to make permanent a minimum freight rate system that is to expire at the end of this year.
While the minimum fares are currently applied to shipping containers and cement, the strikers are calling for the benefits to be expanded to other cargo. That would include oil and chemical tankers, steel and automobile carriers, and package delivery trucks under the broader agreement.
Container traffic at ports recovered to 81 percent of normal levels as of yesterday morning after dropping to about 20 percent earlier this week, the South Korean Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said.
More than 5,000 truckers were actively participating in the strike yesterday, the ministry said.
Tuesday’s order marked the first time a South Korean government exercised its controversial powers under a law revised in 2004 to force truckers back to their jobs.
A failure to comply without “justifiable reason” is punishable by up to three years in jail or a maximum fine of 30 million won (US$23,071).
Critics said the law infringes on constitutional rights because it does not clearly define what qualifies as acceptable conditions for a strike.
Officials said they issued the “work start order” to cement truckers first because the construction industry was hit hardest by shipment delays, and they are considering expanding the order to drivers transporting fuel as a second step, citing concerns about possible shortages at gas stations.
The strike’s impact has been mostly limited to domestic industries, and there have been no reports of major disruptions to export industries such as semiconductors.
Yoon’s government has offered to temporarily extend the minimum freight fares for another three years, but balked at the demand to widen the scope of such payments.
The truckers said the minimum-rate system is crucial for their finances and personal safety, saying that without it they are forced to increase their deliveries and drive dangerously to make ends meet.
Over a few hours under gray skies, dozens of combat planes and helicopters roar on and off the flight deck of the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier, in a demonstration of US military power in some of the world’s most hotly contested waters. MH-60 Seahawk helicopters and F/A-18 Hornet jets bearing pilot call signs such as “Fozzie Bear,” “Pig Sweat” and “Bongoo” emit deafening screams as they land in the drizzle on the Nimitz, which is leading a carrier strike group that entered the South China Sea two weeks ago. US Rear Admiral Christopher Sweeney, who is commanding the group, said the tour
Sitting in a lotus position, four men weave glittering beads through gold thread on an organza sheet, carefully constructing a wedding dress that would soon wow crowds at Paris Fashion Week. For once, the French couturier behind the design, Julien Fournie, is determined to put these craftsmen in the spotlight. His new collection, which showed in Paris on Tuesday, was entirely made with fabrics from Mumbai. He said that a sort of “design imperialism” means that French fashion houses often play down that their fabrics are made outside France. “The houses which don’t admit it are perhaps afraid of losing their clientele,” Fournie
A court in Thailand sentenced a 27-year-old political activist to 28 years in prison on Thursday for posting messages on Facebook that it said defamed the country’s monarchy, while two young women charged with the same offense continued a hunger strike after being hospitalized. The court in the northern province of Chiang Rai found that Mongkhon Thirakot contravened the lese majeste law in 14 of 27 posts for which he was arrested in August last year. The law covers the king, queen and heirs, and any regent. The lese majeste law carries a prison term of three to 15 years per incident for
INSTABILITY: The country has seen a 33 percent increase in land that cultivates poppies since the military took over the government in 2021, a UN report said The production of opium in Myanmar has flourished since the military’s seizure of power, with the cultivation of poppies up by one-third in the past year, as eradication efforts have dropped and the faltering economy has led more people toward the drug trade, a UN report released yesterday showed. Last year, the first full growing season since the military wrested control of the country from the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in 2021, saw a 33 percent increase in Myanmar’s cultivation area to 40,100 hectares, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime report said. “Economic, security and governance disruptions