Chamisul stocks run dry as strike continues

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Chamisul stocks run dry as strike continues

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Boxes of Chamisul soju are stacked in front of Hite Jinro’s factory in Icheon, Gyeonggi, on Wednesday. This is one of the only two of six manufacturing sites that are still operating after the others temporarily halted production. [NEWS1]

Chamisul, Korea’s bestselling soju, is disappearing from shelves as manufacturer Hite Jinro’s labor union continues its strike.

Relations between the two soured late last month after salary disagreements prompted a strike that began on Sept. 25 and is still ongoing. The following 20 discussions were unsuccessful, which eventually led to four of the six Hite Jinro factories temporarily halting operations.

According to the company’s regulatory filing on Friday, the revenue generated from the halted facilities last year was 1.5 trillion won ($1.33 billion), equivalent to 82.6 percent of last year’s entire sales.

Chamisul accounts for 50 percent of the local soju market.

It didn’t take much time for the aftermath to reach major retailers. By last week, the top three convenience stores - CU, GS25 and 7-Eleven - had all told their branches to stop placing orders for Chamisul.

“Some stores already fell short of supply,” said an industry insider at one of the three convenience stores. “Until last week, branches were able to receive products stocked at distribution centers, but this week, it seems they’re empty as well.”

The situation is a little better for discount chains. “We heard that there isn’t a huge problem among our branches yet but we’ll have to see what the impact will be in the long term,” said an Emart spokesman. Another discount chain spokesman said “I was told we’re hanging on with stock and that there is still supply to sell for another week.”

The labor union is requesting a 7 percent salary raise. Hite Jinro, which initially refused to offer any wage increase, is “consider” the hike.

Supplies of Hite’s other products, including popular beers Hite, Max, Filite and Dry d, are also affected by the strike.


BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]

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