Korean companies struggle as striking truckers refuse to haul

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Korean companies struggle as striking truckers refuse to haul

 
A sign at a gas station in Seoul Sunday informing customers that it has no more gas available. A total of 88 gas stations ran out of fuel as of 2 p.m. on Sunday with fewer trucks to transport fuel, according to Korea National Oil Corporation. [YONHAP]

A sign at a gas station in Seoul Sunday informing customers that it has no more gas available. A total of 88 gas stations ran out of fuel as of 2 p.m. on Sunday with fewer trucks to transport fuel, according to Korea National Oil Corporation. [YONHAP]

 
Petrochemical and steel companies are still struggling to ship products out as truckers hauling their goods are not covered by an executive return-to-work order, and the government is set to up the ante by expanding the order to cover more types of trucking and by bringing in reinforcements.  
 
“We need to prepare to issue an executive order for sectors such as oil refining and steel as well,” President Yoon Suk-yeol said in a ministerial meeting on Sunday. “We also need to do our best to minimize damage to our industries by securing additional truck drivers and vehicles that can carry out the work of those on strike.”
 
About 50 trucks owned by the Ministry of National Defense will be used to transport petrochemical and steel products. Additional container vehicles will be added if needed.
 
Finance Minister Choo Kyung-ho said the same day that the government is preparing to issue an executive order for petrochemical and steel truckers, and will instantly do so if the cost of the strike breaks a certain level.
 
Many truckers under Cargo Truckers Solidarity returned to work as an executive order was issued for those transporting cement. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport reported around 2,900 union members participated in rallies nationwide on Sunday, down 32 percent on week.  
 
The executive order doesn’t apply to those transporting petrochemical and steel products.
 
A total of 88 gas stations ran out of fuel as of 2 p.m. on Sunday with fewer trucks to transport fuel, according to Korea National Oil Corporation. The figure rose 19 percent, or by 14, compared to the previous day.  
 
Of the 88 that ran out of fuel, 34 are in Seoul, 20 in Gyeonggi, 10 in Gangwon and six in North Chungcheong.  
 
Petrochemical companies have been able to ship out only 21 percent of normal volumes as of Saturday, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy. Shipments of 710,000 tons of product have been halted, with losses amounting to 923.8 billion won ($709.7 million).
 
Jang Young-jin, vice minister of trade, visited Korea Petrochemical’s plant in Ulsan to talk to employees on site.
 
“Petrochemical products are used by key industries, such as construction, electronics and automobiles, and it is important that the strike doesn’t affect our economy as a whole,” Jang said. “It’s important to immediately request help from the police when truckers on strike try to obstruct drivers that are currently transporting goods, and the government will do our best to minimize damages to the economy.”
 
Jang also stated that various business associations are planning to sue truckers for damages, requesting the Korea Petrochemical Industry Association to also join.
 
Steel makers are also struggling to ship out products.
 
Hyundai Steel hasn’t been able to ship out an average of 50,000 tons of steel products from its factories in Incheon, Dangjin in South Chungcheong and Pohang in North Gyeongsang per day since the strike.  
 
Cargo Truckers Solidarity has been on strike since Nov. 24. It is asking the government to make the freight rate system permanent and expand the type of trucks that are qualified. Under the system, minimum transportation charges are guaranteed to truck drivers transporting containers and cement. The system was temporarily adopted in 2020, and will expire next year.  
 

BY LEE TAE-HEE [lee.taehee2@joongang.co.kr]
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