South Korea President Yoon Suk-yeol warns of possible intervention in trucker strike

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South Korea President Yoon Suk-yeol warns of possible intervention in trucker strike

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol talks during the G 20 leaders summit in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia on November 15, 2022 file photo. DITA ALANGKARA POOL AP SEOUL - South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol warned that the government might step in to break up a nationwide strike by truckers, calling it illegal and unacceptable to take the national supply chain hostage during an economic crisis.

Thousands of unionized truckers kicked off their second major strike in less than six months on Thursday, showing signs of disrupting several industries in the world's 10th largest economy.

READ MORE: S. Korea truckers strike again with auto, battery supply chains at risk.

If the irresponsible denial of transport continues, the government will have no choice but to review a number of measures, including a work start order. The government may issue an order to force transport workers back to their jobs during a serious disruption to transportation, according to South Korean law. Failure to comply is punishable by up to three years in jail or a fine of up to 30 million won $22,550 if the government takes this route. It is the first time in South Korean history that an order is issued.

Transport Minister Won Hee-ryong told reporters on Thursday that the ministry has begun groundwork for issuing the order.

The head of the Cargo Truckers Solidarity Union CTSU Lee Bong-ju said the truckers had no choice but to strike after the government stalled negotiations and had not sought dialogue since.

Lee told reporters on Thursday that the Yoon Suk-yeol government is threatening a hard-line response without any efforts to stop the strike.

ALSO READ: S. Korea braces for supply disruptions as trucker strike looms.

The Korea International Trade Association KITA received 19 reports of disrupted logistics during the first day of the strike. There were inability to bring in raw materials, higher logistics costs and delivery delays that resulted in penalties and trade with overseas buyers being scrapped.

Members of the Public Service and Transport Workers Union stage a rally on June 14, 2022 to support the ongoing trucker strike outside the presidential office in Seoul, South Korea. AHN YOUNG-JOON AP In one instance raw materials for a chemical company were delivered under police protection after the transport vehicle was blocked by striking truckers from entering a factory, KITA said.

The cement industry sustained revenue loss by an estimated 19 billion won $14.26 million on Thursday, according to lobby group Korea Cement Association, after shipments slumped to less than 10,000 tons due to the strike. This compares with South Korea's 200,000 tons of cement demand in the peak season between September and December.

ALSO READ: S. Korea shipyard workers say to end the strike if lawsuits are dropped.

The union estimated that about 25,000 people were joining the strike, out of about 420,000 total transport workers in South Korea. On Thursday, around 8,000 people were camped out at key transport points to protest overnight, according to the transport ministry.