What was lost at SsangyongThe maelstrom at Ssangyong Motors has finally been put down. It is regrettable that the conflict did not end peacefully, with negotiations between labor and management. And it was difficult to watch as the people involved in the dispute were hurt in the physical struggles that continued throughout the conflict. The illegal protest, which persisted for 77 days, damaged not only the automaker, but also the economy. It is fortunate that it has been brought to an end.
We have lost so much over the course of the demonstration. Ssangyong lost 320 billion won ($261.5 million) from suspended production. When damages to the company’s approximately 600 trading partners and the restaurants that were once frequented by Ssangyong workers are taken into account, the amount lost hovers above 1 trillion won.
Beyond the financial damage, there are other incalculable losses. Korea’s image in the international community has been tarnished. And there is no way to measure the tragedy of people who worked side by side as colleagues yesterday, fighting against one another as enemies today.
The automaker needs to bring itself back to normal. Although the demonstration at Ssangyong has ended, orchestrating the company’s recovery seems a more difficult task than ever. Due to the losses from the demonstration, the company is worth less if it keeps its doors open than if it chooses to liquidate its assets. But the workers should not despair. They should do their best to help bring things back to normal should the court order liquidation.
The government should first focus on minimizing the financial damage to the company. Although the government should be sure to take the workers’ efforts at normalization into account, it should also take swift steps to embark on a liquidation process to calm domestic and foreign investors and prevent additional damage.
Now that the demonstration is over, some 20,000 workers, including those from Ssangyong’s partner companies, are on the verge of losing their jobs. In addition, the dearth of auto parts has left around 1 million Ssangyong car owners without proper after-sales service.
We hope the government will designate Pyeongtaek, the area where the Ssangyong plant is based, as a special district to boost employment and bail out as many of Ssangyong’s partners as possible.
The extended strike has caused conflicts not only among Ssangyong workers but also within the local community. It was dangerous for civic groups and political parties to have labeled the protest as an ideological conflict.
Labor-management conflicts caused by corporate restructuring are not supposed to lead to social division.