A truck strike over working conditions in South Korea continued to paralyze import and export trade Thursday.
Most ports in South Korea have been affected, including the Port of Busan, one of the world’s top five container ports by throughput and the country’s biggest international gateway handling 75 percent of the national containerized imports and exports.
“The effect on transshipment cargo — 45 percent of Busan port’s total throughput — is obviously minimal,” a port authority spokesperson said. “However, there has been a significant impact on the handling of local cargo at Busan port. Currently, up to 40 percent of import and export cargo has been unable to be moved due to the shortage of truck transport.”
Unionized truck drivers began their nationwide strike Monday, claiming the government had reneged on a promise to improve working conditions, including improved subcontract fees, accident insurance and a fuel tax exemption.
The government has labeled the strike illegal, drafted in military vehicles and boosted rail and water options.
Accounts vary on how many trucks are currently out of action because of the strike. The government has estimated the number at some 1,700 trucks, around 3 percent of the national fleet. Union figures claim more than 80,000 trucks are parked.
“The government is trying to downscale the effects of our strike to gain an upper hand in upcoming negotiations,” a union spokesman said. “Our tally shows that the engines of more than 80 percent of cargo trucks operating in the Busan, Gwangyang and Pyeongtaek ports and the industrial complex in Pohang have been turned off.”
The government estimated that a 2008 truck drivers’ strike cost the economy more than $5 billion in just one week.
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